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School Teacher Files ACLU Lawsuit Against Officer, Claims Racial Profiling

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

FREELAND-WEB-HEADSHOT-2013 Lynne Hayes-Freeland
Lynne Hayes-Freeland is a general assignment reporter known for live,...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – School teacher Dennis Henderson was arrested on a Homewood Street, after attending a community rally to address police community relations.

He has always maintained he never broke any laws. The charges related to the arrest have been withdrawn, pending an investigation. And Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU against the officer, Jonathan Gromek, charged the arrest was racially motivated.

“What happened to Mr. Henderson is a symptom of racial profiling and harassment,” said attorney Sara Rose. “Simply being a black man in a neighborhood does not give police probable cause to stop you.”

Henderson had been attending a meeting when he stepped outside to get a business card. Officer Gromek drove down the street swerving past Henderson. When the Charter School teacher reacted, the officer returned and the confrontation ensued.

“I am filing this case because officer Gromek used his patrol car to intimidate and endager me for no apparent reason other than I am black,” Henderson said.

But the lawsuit is broader, because Henderson also recorded part of the confrontation and subsequent arrest on his cell phone, which the officer tried to stop – a violation of Henderson’s rights.

Part of the audio revealed this interaction between the two:

Officer Gromek: “Stop playing with your phone.”

Henderson: “I have every right to do this.”

Gromek: “Put your hands behind your back.”

Henderson: “I have every right to do this.”

“The recording gives the public a way to counter what the police officer says. This may have been a different story if we didn’t have that recording,” Rose said.

The suit doesn’t ask for a specific amount as far as monetary damages, but it does ask for changes in the way the police department does business going forward.

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