Crime & Justice

Beverly Hills police defend mistaken identity arrest of black film producer after Pre-Emmy party

Charles Belk was arrested and detained by the Beverly Hills Police Department for fitting the description of a bank robbery suspect. Belk works in the entertainment industry.
Charles Belk was arrested and detained by the Beverly Hills Police Department for fitting the description of a bank robbery suspect. Belk works in the entertainment industry.
via Facebook
Charles Belk was arrested and detained by the Beverly Hills Police Department for fitting the description of a bank robbery suspect. Belk works in the entertainment industry.
Belk posted this photo to his personal Facebook page with the caption: "I remember "Detention" back in high school, and it certainly didn't come with handcuffs, fingerprinting, mug shots and a cold jail cell for 6 hours! – at the Beverly Hills Police Department"
Charles Belk, via Facebook

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

A statement from the Beverly Hills Police Department defended the mistaken identity arrest of a black film producer, who posted about his experience on Facebook, accusing the police of racial profiling.

“Within minutes of the robbery call being broadcast, police detained a subject less than a block away from the robbery who closely matched the clothing and physical characteristics of the male suspect," the Beverly Hills Police Department said in a statement. "After an eyewitness positively identified the subject in a field show-up, police arrested Charles Belk for suspicion of robbery,” the statement said. Belk is a tall, bald African-American man.

The department also issued an apology to Charles Belk, who said that he was detained for hours before being released.

“The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the inconvenience to Mr. Belk and has reached out to him to express those regrets and further explain the circumstances,” the police statement said. A spokesman said the incident will be recorded as a detention, not an arrest.

Belk's original post has been shared more than 38,000 times. 

“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn't know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn't matter if he's a "Taye Diggs BLACK", a "LL Cool J BLACK", or "a Drake BLACK"

He continues to monitor media coverage of his arrest on his Facebook page.

In the hours prior to his arrest last Friday, Belk was busily promoting one of his clients at a pre-Emmy “gifting suite.” That’s where celebrities are offered a smorgasbord of goodies, provided free of charge by vendors who hope to get exposure from cultural “influencers.” 

Belk's client that afternoon was singer-songwriter and actor Olurotimi Akinosho, better known as Rotimi.
“The new trend this year seemed to be high end doggy products,” said Belk, a brand marketer, TV producer and college lecturer. “Doggy jackets, plush doggy begs, high end doggy treats - stuff like that.” He chuckled at the idea.

Afterwards, Belk told KPCC, he grabbed a bite to eat with a friend at a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. His run-in with police occurred shortly after 5 p.m., when he went to check his parking meter around the corner on La Cienega.

“All of a sudden a Beverly Hills police officer pulls up in front of me on his motorcycle and says, ‘Excuse me, can you come here please?’” Belk recalled. Suddenly, he was handcuffed and sitting on the curb. It would be more than six hours before police released him, according to Belk.

“For the first 10 minutes, I’m thinking, 'Something has happened. I’ll let them sort this all out,'” Belk said.

Belk said he grew more frustrated when officers drove him back to the police station, took his fingerprints and mug shot and refused to allow him to call an attorney for several hours.

Belk, 51, said he overheard officers talking about a bank robbery at Citibank, near where he was picked up. He said he had nothing to do with it, and urged them to check footage from the bank’s security cameras. Belk said he was careful to cooperate.

“I did not want to do anything that would give them a reason to allow me to meet the same fate as other black males have met recently,” he said.

Born and raised in Durham, N.C., Belk holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from USC and an MBA from Indiana University. 

The police statement said officers properly detained and arrested Belk “based on the totality of the circumstances.” Police department protocol requires that officers go through the process of “thoroughly verifying” that Belk was not the suspect before releasing him, the statement added. A police spokesman denied accusations the department delayed allowing Belk to call his attorney. 

Police arrested Brianna Clemons Kloutse, 47, on the same day of the incident. Detectives believe she is the “Purse Packing Bandit” responsible for nine recent bank robberies. A second suspect remains at large, according to police.

It's unclear when police reviewed tape of the robbery from the bank’s security cameras. It was after that review that police decided to release Belk, according to the spokesman, Sgt. Matt Subin. Belk said his release came less than an hour after the FBI interviewed him and after his attorney arrived.

Belk said he has a hunch as to why it took the Beverly Hills police department six hours to release him. “They had pretty much convinced themselves I was guilty.”

If police had looked at the security camera footage earlier, they would have known immediately he was not the bank robber’s accomplice, Belk said, because of the T-shirt he was wearing at the time.

“This is a designer green T-shirt with three buttons strategically placed,” he said. “I am absolutely positive that even if this guy is my identical twin, we didn’t have on the same green T-shirt."