Racial Profiling?

He was pulled over near his home because the officer said his tag light was out. Then the officer wanted to search his car for narcotics, but the man said he was pulled over for another reason…he is black. Is that legal? It’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When good people come here from another country, it’s for a reason.

Randy Saint-Jean: “Migrants from Haiti, you know, come to America to take part of the American dream.”

Randy was a child when his family settled in Fort. Lauderdale and he has done well in pursuing the American dream.

Randy Saint-Jean: “Active duty in the Marine core and six years in the Air Force reserve, I have a degree in criminal justice.”

Today, Randy is a detention officer but in mid-September, he says he found out what it’s like to be treated like a criminal when he was pulled over at midnight by a Fort. Lauderdale police officer.

Randy Saint-Jean: “Pulled over for a tag light.”

Randy said OK, and handed over his driver’s license. The officer’s response…

Randy Saint-Jean: “‘We are conducting a narcotic search in the area’ and him wanting to do a narcotic search on my vehicle.”

Randy was suspicious.

Randy Saint-Jean: “I’m not a criminal, he had no search warrant, no probable cause other than me being a black male driver.”

The officer was also black, then two more officers showed up, one with a drug sniffing K-9. Randy asked to speak to a supervisor before he let them search his car. He was told supervisors were not available.

Randy Saint-Jean: “When he told me that, what can I do? I just stepped out the car. In my situation, first of all being a black male in the presence of three officers.”

The dog searched his car and Randy says of course found nothing, but they weren’t thru.

Randy Saint-Jean: “Then the second officer came and gave me a pat down. He searched me to see if I had any type of contraband, narcotics, which they didn’t find nothing.”

Randy thought they were done. Still, not yet.

Randy Saint-Jean: “When it was set and done, that is when the officer who initially pulled me over issued me a citation for non-operable tag light.”

Randy, with 11 years military service, no criminal record, and a job in law enforcement, felt humiliated.

Randy Saint-Jean: “Being in that situation, I was in shock and I was you know very upset. I was just speechless.”

Speechless that night but not today.

Randy Saint-Jean: “My question is, Howard, I want an answer to, what just happened to me? Do they have authorization to do what they did to me that Sunday morning.”

Howard Finkelstein: “As the chief public defender, for years I have strongly criticized the Fort. Lauderdale police for stopping blacks while driving or riding a bike. Let’s be blunt, do you think Coral Gables would stop a white resident and do what was done to Randy? No, it’s racial profiling and it’s illegal.”

We contacted Fort. Lauderdale police who forwarded us an internal email from the shift commander to internal affairs.

The commander said he spoke to Randy and told him “It did not appear there was a violation of law, case law, or policy in this matter.” He explained “That backup officers were required on all traffic stops and narcotic sniffs were lawful.”

When we let them know that Howard believes it’s illegal and racial profiling, a major from the chiefs office wrote back. “This matter is closed” and “We respectfully decline to comment.”

A department spokesperson did write us, although it should not matter, it’s valuable for you to be aware that officer (Tristan) Reid is African-American himself.

Howard Finkelstein: “The race of the police officer is irrelevant. The treatment of the person stopped is the issue, and while I think it’s illegal, Randy could file a lawsuit but even if he won in court, he wouldn’t collect much because he was only detained for 45 minutes. So that’s why it continues.”

Randy can’t get it out of his mind because he never expected to be treated like a criminal.

Randy Saint-Jean: “You are pulling me over for a tag light and you say that you got to do a narcotic search on my vehicle. Under no grounds, no search warrant, no probable cause.”

Patrick Fraser: “The Fort. Lauderdale police are convinced they have the right to do what they did to Randy. Howard is convinced they had no right. It’s illegal and wrong. Neither side will back down.”

An arresting situation causing you unrest? Searching for a solution? Contact us. Hopefully we fit your profile. Couple of guys who just wanna pull over and help.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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