WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A UNCW chemistry lecturer says that he was racially profiled today when a campus police officer searched him in front of students and staff.
Chemistry teacher Rajan Juniku says that he was just enjoying some sunshine on a bench in front of his office when an officer approached him and asked him to remove his jacket.
He says that the officer asked him to place the jacket on the bench without first asking who he was or why he was on campus.
“I had a jacket. It was zipped up because I was cold. I was shaking. And he said I should remove my hands very slowly. Because apparently, somebody notified them that I look suspicious, and I have concealed weapons,” Juniku said.
Juniku, who hails from Kosovo, says that he asked the officer if the search was related to his appearance.
“’Are you doing this because I look Middle Eastern?’ I said. ‘Why are you doing this? Because I don’t look suspicious. I was just sitting there drinking water. Doing nothing suspiciously,’” he said.
Juniku’s wife, Alicia, was outraged when she heard what had happened, and made a post about it on Facebook.
So far, the post has received more than 500 shares.
“The fact that it’s happening on campus. At UNCW. To a respected member of the community. To a lecturer in the college. It’s just outrageous to me. And the fact that he was subjected to this is entirely unacceptable,” she said.
UNCW acknowledged the incident in a statement.
“We have taken this accusation of “profiling” very seriously, and will review how we can ensure that those approached by UPD will not feel that they are being singled out for their ethnicity, but we also must recognize an obligation to respond to an employee’s concern about campus safety,” the statement reads.
The Junikus say that the incident is significant because it is just a small example of what non-white people across the country face.
“I don’t want this to happen again. They should make sure they know how to deal with this kind of situation,” Juniku said. “If I am faculty, they should be able to find out who is that person sitting there. Without jumping the gun, so to speak.”
UNCW’s full statement can be viewed below:
“The University’s police department was contacted by an employee at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The caller expressed concern that a man was seated on a bench behind Cameron Hall wearing a zipped-up jacket that did not seem congruent with the warm weather conditions. There was no mention of race by the caller until he was asked by the dispatcher to provide routine descriptive information so that the man could be efficiently located by police personnel. A UPD officer was dispatched to the location and upon arrival, there was an interaction of less than 2 minutes between the officer and the man, who self-identified as a faculty member.
During this time, the officer introduced himself and explained that UPD had received a call which obligated their response, regarding the fact that he was wearing a jacket that seemed inappropriate for the warm weather, and there was concern he might be concealing weapons. The officer explained that the easiest way to dispel the concern was for the faculty member to take the jacket off, so the officer could see that there was no weapon present. The faculty member removed the jacket and handed it to the officer, who quickly confirmed there was no weapon and placed the jacket on the bench.
The officer emphatically indicated, when asked by the faculty member if he was questioning him based on his ethnicity, that this was not the case, and again stated that he was obligated to respond to the call of concern. The interaction did not include any physical contact or “frisking,” nor a request for the man to identify himself or his purpose for being on campus. During this interaction, the officer indicated repeatedly that he did not believe the faculty member had done anything wrong, and apologized for the fact that he was obligated to follow up on the call received by UPD.
The university immediately initiated a review of this exchange yesterday afternoon, and UPD reached out to the faculty member (via telephone and email) for his account of the exchange. This morning UNCW’s provost/chief academic officer reached out to the faculty member to express her concern and to encourage him to respond to UPD’s outreach to him. The dashcam video has been very closely reviewed to confirm our understanding of the facts of the exchange. We are eager to quickly proceed and finalize our review and will be able to do so upon receiving a response from the faculty member involved. We have taken this accusation of “profiling” very seriously and will review how we can ensure that those approached by UPD will not feel that they are being singled out for their ethnicity, but we also must recognize an obligation to respond to an employee’s concern about campus safety.”
Office of University Relations
University of North Carolina Wilmington