Unfounded – Decatur Police find no evidence of racial profiling

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 11, 2014


An internal report into allegations of racial profiling by Decatur Police concluded that police officers were within their rights to stop a man they suspected of a burglary.

That man turned out to be Don Denard, a former City Schools of Decatur Board of Education member. Police stopped Denard on Dec. 15, walking down the street not far from his home on South Candler Street. An investigator, identified as Investigator Hall in the report, believed Denard might’ve just burglarized his South Candler Street residence. She came to that conclusion because she saw him leaving his home from the back door and walking toward the street without stopping by his mailbox.

At the time, officers were in the middle of “Holiday Patrol Detail,” according to a letter Chief Mike Booker wrote to Denard. That letter is included in the report.

“Based on our previous experience, we initiated a specific detail whose primary function was to undertake plain clothes patrol and surveillance of the neighborhood in an attempt to prevent potential criminal activity and to be able to immediately respond in case something happened,” Booker wrote.

Hall wrote in her account that as Denard walked away from his home, he was adjusting his jacket near the waist and was looking all around him.

“Based on my knowledge, training and experience as a criminal investigator, and based on the precipitating factors which were the focus for the special detail, I was mindful that many burglary suspects target residences where it appears no one is at home,” Hall wrote.

The investigator noted that in addition to Denard not checking his mail, she noticed a stack of mail on the front steps, another clue that the resident may have been out of town. Hall knocked on the door. No one answered. She walked around the house and noticed one of the back doors was ajar.

“Considering the totality of the circumstances, I believed a burglary may have been committed,” she said. That is when she radioed other officers, who stopped Denard.

The report disputes several element’s of Denard’s account.

Capt. W.S. Richards investigated Denard’s complaint. An officer who detained Denard denied telling him that racial profiling wasn’t all bad, but did say he told Denard that, “If a burglary occurred at his residence, then he should be glad the officers were stopping a suspect.”

Richards concluded that the investigator had “articulable reasonable suspicion” to stop Denard, based on her observations.

“The stop was not based on the color of Mr. Denard’s skin, but instead on his behavior and what Inv. Hall discovered at the residence,” Richards wrote.

He concluded,”This incident is closed and marked as unfounded.”

Download the full report by clicking this link: Don Denard Complaint Investigtive File

Denard told Decaturish “I am not satisfied” with the police department’s findings and pledged to respond via “community action.”

Don Denard, a former City Schools of Decatur Board of Education member, speaks to Decatur City Commissioners during a Jan. 6 meeting. Denard claims he was racially profiled by Decatur police who stopped him while he was walking down his street.

Don Denard, a former City Schools of Decatur Board of Education member, speaks to Decatur City Commissioners during a Jan. 6 meeting

Denard, 63, has lived in Decatur since 1981, and served on the city’s school board from 1989 to 1997. Denard brought the allegations to the attention of city commissioners during their Jan. 6 meetings. Denard’s story moved City Commissioner Kecia Cunningham to tears.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Susan S

    I think this speaks to a lot of changing things about Decatur, including that it seems there are no “neighborhood” police anymore? Growing up there, my parents knew the policepeople that were around their area, and where they worked (in Oakhurst). Everyone knows Don Denard! If a police investigator is so unfamiliar with the neighborhood on S. Candler that they don’t know the families that have lived there for decades, still leave their back doors unlocked sometimes, and deign to actually walk around the neighborhood for the pleasure of it (without checking the mail!), then maybe the Decatur police force needs to focus again on getting to know their city residents, rather than just looking for criminals. Decatur is a growing place, yes, but it’s still not that big. I think this is a good time for everyone to check back in to being engaged with their neighbors and local law enforcement!

    • Excellent point, Susan. It raises another question in my mind: how many Decatur Police officers could afford to own a house in Decatur now that property values have gotten so high?

      • Joseph

        Very few. And with a lot of the “moderately priced” housing stock being snapped up by developers putting up gazillion dollar McMansions this is not going to go away. Unless there are sensible regulations for infill construction, I see a future where Decatur is completely unaffordable for fire, police, most city workers, etc.

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