Woman Confronted By 19 Cops — In Her Own Apartment

How many police officers should a person expect to show up at the site of a suspected burglary? How should they respond? One Black woman in California shared a heartbreaking and terrifying account of a recent experience, when 19 cops confronted her with guns drawn — in her own apartment.

The piece by Fay Wells, published in The Washington Post, goes into detail about what happened on September 6 after she had to call a locksmith to let her into her apartment after a soccer game. A white neighbor called the police to report a burglary, and the Santa Monica Police Department sent 19 officers and a police dog to Wells' apartment complex.

"I told the officers I didn’t want them in my apartment. I said they had no right to be there. They entered anyway," Wells wrote. "One pulled me, hands behind my back, out to the street. The neighbors were watching. Only then did I notice the ocean of officers. I counted 16. They still hadn’t told me why they’d come."

The whole story is an important read. But it's not unique.

This is hardly the first time that a person of color has been treated with disrespect and disbelief after trying to enter her or his own home. The most famous recent incident took place in Cambridge, MA, when police arrested Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates on the front porch of his own home in 2009. A neighbor had also called to report a break-in.

In 2014, retired major league baseball player Doug Glanville wrote in the Atlantic about being racially profiled by a West Hartford, CT, police — in his own driveway. "I noted the strangeness of [the officer's] being in Hartford — an entirely separate town with its own police force — so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, 'So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?'"

Glanville, just like Wells, described a sense of overwhelming vulnerability, a feeling that it was only luck — and extreme deference to heavily armed men —that protected them from a very different fate. "If you are the president, or a retired professional athlete, it can be all too easy to feel protected from everyday indignities. But America doesn’t let any of us deny our connection to the Black 'everyman,'" Glanville wrote. "And unfortunately that connection, which should be a welcome one, can be forced upon us in a way that undermines our self-esteem, our collective responsibility, and our sense of family and history."

According to a note on Wells' piece, the Santa Monica PD has yet to provide a consistent list of the officers who were at Wells' apartment that day, but says it has opened an investigation into her allegations of racial discrimination.

"I’m heartbroken that his careless assessment of me, based on skin color, could endanger my life," Wells wrote. "I’m heartbroken by a system that evades accountability and justifies dangerous behavior. I’m heartbroken that the place I called home no longer feels safe. I’m heartbroken that no matter how many times a story like this is told, it will happen again."
Advertisement