Elections workers claim police hassled them

October 28, 2010 4:39:13 PM PDT
Election workers, hired to get out into the neighborhoods, pulled over and detained -- one even handcuffed -- by Houston police. The workers say police went too far.

The democrats' lawyers have already asked the city to preserve all the evidence in this case and they may file a suit.

But this is a tricky spot.

Police were asked by democratic lawmakers to get out in this area and cut crime. So they did, but in the process, they may've stepped over the line.

If HPD was trying to stop robbers or burglars out here yesterday, Clemmie Walton says they picked the wrong guy.

"If I am in campaign gear, if I'm with a clipboard and if I'm walking visibly at four in the afternoon, I would be the smartest criminal or the dumbest criminal," Walton said.

Walton's not a criminal. He and Cory Wilson are paid to knock on your door and urge you to vote democratic. And that's what they were doing on Wednesday when three HPD officers pulled them over.

"They asked me for my license and registration," Wilson said.

But then ordered Wilson out of the car and ordered Walton out too.

"They searched me and pulled everything out of my pockets and then they put the handcuffs on me right there," Walton said.

Wilson, Walton and another canvasser all dressed in campaign T-shirts were put in the back seat of a squad car and another officer drove Wilson's car to a nearby gas station, where Wilson says he went through it for 15 minutes.

"He immediately just started throwing all my stuff around. He kept asking me where are the drugs at?" Wilson recalled.

No drugs were found and no tickets or arrests made. The men were let go. The Houston Police Department tells us their officers were doing what they should be doing -- stopping suspicious vehicles.

HPD says Walton was handcuffed after he refused to give his ID, that the men were stopped because they looked suspicious stopping frequently in a drug- and robbery-prone area and that Wilson gave permission for his car to be searched.

But the men say that didn't happen.

Walton says he gave his ID through the rear window without being asked, and both men say the only thing officers told them was it was a prostitution area -- nothing about drugs or robbery, and Wilson tells us he was never asked about a search of the car, let alone giving his permission.

"I was a victim of racial profiling," Walton said.

Walton doesn't think police are trying to stop democrats or stifle the vote. He does think they singled out a black man.

"You feel like you were stopped because you were black?" we asked Walton.

"Yes," he replied.

"That's the only reason?"

"Yes."

"And even once you told them, 'Hey, I am here for a legitimate reason,' it did not stop?"

"It did not stop."

After talking to the canvassers and numerous police sources, it sounds like this was mistaken identity. The officers say the car was making lots of stops, a possible sign of drug activity, and a check of the license plate revealed police had dealt with the car before.

This time, the men just want to know why it took so long for the officers to figure out nothing out of line was going on.


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