WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — UNCW’s police chief today defended the work of one of his officers after a faculty member said he felt racially profiled earlier this week on campus.
It started after someone called campus police about a suspicious person sitting near Cameron Hall on campus.
“There’s a bench there and a man sitting there in a zipped-up red jacket, his hands in his pockets, just sitting there,” the caller said. “Now he’s taking a drink from a water bottle. But I just think it’s odd that it’s almost 80 degrees and he’s sitting there zipped up in a jacket with his hands in his pockets, watching people walk by. And I don’t know if he’s a 10-60 subject (suspicious person) or just someone who wants to warm up.”
The operator asks the caller if the man is black, white or Hispanic.
“Um, from here he almost looks like, Indian maybe,” the caller said.
“Like, Middle Eastern?” the operator asked.
“Yeah, Middle Eastern,” the caller said. “You know, and he might just be a business professor or something. I hate to harass him, but it’s just odd he’s sitting there. I don’t know.”
Juniku’s wife Alicia was outraged and posted what happened on Facebook claiming her husband had been racially profiled. In the call to police, the caller does not tell the dispatcher a race until he is asked. Then the dispatcher, does not confirm a race to the officer responding.
“He said the skin looks darker,” dispatch said. “He’s not sure whether he’s a Caucasian male.”
UNCW Police Chief David Donaldson said Officer Jonathan Hill responded exactly how he should have.
“He introduced himself and he immediately went to the point of discussing what the concern was and in less than two minutes had dispelled the concern,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson said there was question about why the officer did not ask for Juniku’s identification.
“We are a public university,” Donaldson said. “We are an open campus. We are a campus of lots of different people’s purposes and it’s now our job as a police department responding to that call to determine someone’s legitimacy.”
Donaldson said the caller did nothing wrong and neither did his officer.
“We often say when in doubt, reach out,” Donaldson said. “We often say see something say something, so the community member acted on that called the police and our obligation was to respond and investigate and we did that using best practices.”
Juniku met with UPD today for the first time since the incident. He says he was allowed to see police dash cam video of the incident, but that video cannot be released to him or the public, including the news media, without a court order.