Residents Call Police Over Black Man Canvassing, Cops Detain Him

“This can be only interpreted as ‘2 black men looked out of place in this predominantly white neighborhood,’" the candidate wrote on Facebook.

A political candidate in Riverside County, California, indicated she wanted to coordinate with police after a resident called officers on two black canvassers with one being detained. 

Penny Newman, who is running for the county’s supervisor position, wrote to police on Facebook on Sunday about the incident, which occurred over the weekend in Corona.

“This can be only interpreted as ‘2 black men looked out of place in this predominantly white neighborhood.’ That in itself is problematic. Corona is better than this,” Newman wrote on Facebook. Corona’s Hispanic population is larger than its white demographic, but both are more substantial than its African-American community.

Newman’s open letter to the department also noted that she had reached out to officers but did not initially receive a response from police.

“Upon learning what happened yesterday, my campaign attempted to contact the watch commander through local dispatch. It is now the next morning and we have had no return call. I am very concerned with how your officer handled this situation. I am also concerned for the safety of our canvassers as we cannot seem to get in touch with people in leadership positions within your department to give them a heads up that we will have canvassers out in the field,” the letter said.

She later said she and the Corona police chief have been trying to reach each other by phone but had not connected.

The department explained its justification for the detainment in a social media post. “At approximately 1:04 pm, dispatch received a call for service, from a resident, of a suspicious person in the 1100 block of Stone Pine,” a post on the Corona police Facebook page said. “The caller advised a black male adult had been in the area for over an hour, going door to door, while talking on his cell phone. The caller gave a description of the male and officers responded and contacted a 35-year-old male matching the reporting party’s description.“

The police said that the detained campaign worker had an outstanding arrest warrant, which Newman claimed was for a traffic ticket, and was also on post-release community supervision.

Newman said her letter was not meant to attack the police but rather draw community attention to an issue that “needs to be the topic of conversation for the community. He did nothing wrong. He was out campaigning for someone for office. There are hundreds of (canvassers) out there, because it’s campaign time. We have been doing this for years and years, and we have never had the police called on our canvassers.”

The detainment of the campaign worker comes amid a years-long national focus and contentious discussion about how race and policing intersect. The incident in Corona raises concerns of racial profiling, indicating how these concerns can affect political activity. If black political canvassers cannot lobby for candidates without being investigated or detained by police, this represents a problem for encouraging political engagement across the population.

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