College Professor Details Detainment on Centre Street Because He ‘Fit The Description’

A blog post by Massachusetts College Art and Design professor Steve Locke in which he describes being stopped and questioned by police on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain (near the corner of Seaverns Avenue across from Purple Cactus, by the sounds of it) for 35 minutes yesterday because police said he “fit the description” of a break-in suspect: “black male, knit hat, puffy coat.”

Locke, who lives in Dedham and says he was in JP to pick up a burrito before teaching a class, describes the experience, and his feelings of fear and isolation, in detail:

“Something weird happens when you are on the street being detained by the police. People look at you like you are a criminal. The police are detaining you so clearly you must have done something, otherwise they wouldn’t have you. No one made eye contact with me. I was hoping that someone I knew would walk down the street or come out of one of the shops or get off the 39 bus or come out of JP Licks and say to these cops, ‘That’s Steve Locke. What the [EXPLETIVE] are you detaining him for?’”

Police eventually allowed Locke to leave, thanked him for his cooperation, and apologized for “screwing up [his] lunch break,” Locke writes.

The description echoes an incident earlier this year when a block college professor reported feeling racially profiled at Blanchards on Centre Street following a robbery at the store.

h/t @universalhub

  • Hugo_JP

    Hmmm, so if the police are given a suspect’s description that says “short, white female with long brown hair wearing a green jacket” they should not stop someone that fits that description?
    The police did their job, asked some questions and apologized for the incident.

    • jppresident

      That’s not the issue here. The description given was too vague. It’s December “black male, knit hat, puffy coat” would fit just about any black man in the area. If the description was white male/woman, knit hat, puffy coat no one would be stopped.

      • jppresident

        This man was guilty, until proven innocent.

      • Hugo_JP

        So the police should just not follow up on an attempted break-in? The alleged break-in had taken place with the hour, so of course the police should keep an eye out for someone matching the description given to them, even if it wasn’t a perfect description.

  • paul

    My friend was stopped by the police just a few weeks ago. The description? “white male, average height, beard.” He was stopped, questioned, and released. I feel like this was a pretty vague description too, but no racism came into play.

    • Monster

      …but did he blog about it?

      • JC

        I’m a white guy and it’s an understatement to say that these things happen to people who look like me a lot less than they happen to people who look like Mr. Locke. I can’t for one minute pretend to know what he was thinking, feeling during this ordeal.
        I don’t doubt that he may have been justified to wonder if he might die at the hands of a trigger-happy cop that day, but the fact is, he didn’t die, not even close, so he was 100% wrong on that presumption. Could he also be wrong about being profiled?