UAH President apologizes face to face with 17-year-old verbally abused by campus cops

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 7:20 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - There are still many unanswered questions after a 17-year-old Hazel Green High School student was pulled over in a traffic stop by The University of Alabama in Huntsville campus police.

The teenager was pulled over for a broken tail light and was asked to get out of the car. The teenager said one of the officers became verbally abusive - asking him if he had drugs or a dead prostitute in the car.

Early Monday, UAH’s president apologized face-to-face with Caleb Crutcher and his family.

The Crutcher family said they heard the school’s apology but they are eager and waiting to see if anything will actually change.

The school won’t release the officer’s name to the family, and they would not release the body camera footage despite our public records request.

High school senior Caleb Crutcher was on his way home from a part-time job when a UAH campus police officer pulled him over on University Drive for a cracked, but working, tail light.

“It was once he approached the car, ‘do you have any drugs or weapons?’ That escalated to ‘Are you telling me you don’t have any weed?’ Then weed escalated to crack, and crack to the dead prostitute,” Chanda Crutcher said describing the interaction with police. According to his mother, Caleb is an honor student and star-athlete who has never been in trouble. “Fight or flight. What if my child had ran... this would be a much different narrative.”

Caleb’s parents went to the UAH police chief for an explanation. The chief wouldn’t meet with the Crutcher’s, but instead a captain showed them the body camera footage.

“We walked into the interrogation room, we were made to feel like suspects in a criminal investigation. We were recorded, and when we left my husband asked, have you been recording us this entire time, she said yes, he said ‘without our permission?’ and her response was ‘I don’t have to have your permission.'.”

A few days later, UAH President Darren Dawson issued a statement apologizing and saying the university will use this as a learning and training opportunity. The school says they will now review all UAH-PD policies and procedures and officers will undergo more training.

The president also said he plans to increase accountability and transparency within the department.

However, when 48 News asked for the body camera footage, our request was denied due to the ongoing investigation. Our request to sit down with the police chief and school president were also denied.

We asked for the name of the officer, any disciplinary actions taken against him, and what the policy is for officers pulling over people off campus property. A university spokesperson didn’t answer our questions.

The Crutcher family said they are not against the police and are not looking to defund the department. Rather, they believe the officer involved was poorly trained and lacks human compassion.

“This comes down to basic humanity, how we treat people matters. How we treat young black boys and young black men, it matters. We can’t continue to act like it is not happening. It is happening and we have to address it.”

The Crutcher family plans to provide the school a list of recommendations they believe will be valuable to the department and campus moving forward.

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