CLEARWATER, Fla. — A quality service inquiry investigation determined that a Clearwater Police Officer did not profile a teenager when he stopped the boy for walking across the street while the traffic light was red back in May.
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- Surveillance video linked above
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The internal report was completed last month and states there were no indications that Officer Joshua Gibson’s actions were based on Kenneth Powell’s race. Lieutenant Natalia Illich-Hailey found the profiling allegation to be “unfounded.”
The incident occurred on May 13 at 10:05 p.m., when Powell walked across N Garden Avenue from Marshall Street in Clearwater. The teen said he was walking home from his job at Publix and was wearing a grey hoodie over his uniform.
Surveillance video (linked at the top of this post) shows Officer Gibson quickly stop Powell, 16, as soon as the teen gets to the other side of the street. On the video, Powell can be seen stopping and walking towards Gibson’s police cruiser.
The cruiser blocks the camera angle, but Gibson said Powell exhibited several pre-flight indicators — one of those was taking steps backwards as if the teen was going to run. That’s when the officer grabbed Powell by his arms, put him in handcuffs and re-directed the teen to the front of the cruiser.
Gibson also said the teen was squirming and moving around while in handcuffs.
Powell admitted to investigators that he had “backed up,” which is probably why the officer thought he was trying to run. The teen also said he was “moving a bit” while in handcuffs because he was scared.
Gibson said he searched Powell because he began to wonder why the juvenile was trying to get away from him, but did not find any contraband. Gibson said once he saw that Powell did not have any prior law enforcement contacts, he decided to give him a verbal warning.
Powell began crying when Gibson told him he could’ve been arrested for obstruction and apologized, according to the report. Gibson called Powell’s mom at the end of the stop and offered to drop the teen off at his home.
Back in May, Powell told Spectrum Bay News 9 in an exclusive interview that it appeared Gibson was shooting video of the teen with his cell phone. Investigators asked Gibson about that accusation and the officer said he never recorded Powell.
Instead, he was trying to use apps on his phone to to identify the teen.
The entire stop lasted 15 minutes. Within three minutes of stopping Powell, four more police officers showed up to the scene. Those officers stated they heard a key-up on the radio and an inaudible noise in the background while Gibson was calling in the stop.
According to the report, Sergeant Yuen was in charge of the scene and was counseled about better managing his resources once he determined that officers are no longer needed on calls for service.
The report concludes that Powell did commit a pedestrian violation which was witnessed by Gibson and provided a lawful purpose to stop Kenneth. Since January, Gibson has conducted at least 26 pedestrian violation stops and has issued 10 citations.
The Clearwater Police Chief, along with Powell’s parents, declined our request for an interview.