BOSTON — A widely shared video showing a white Boston police officer stopping and questioning a black man who was on his way to a barbershop has roiled civil rights activists, who say the confrontation is indicative of the way law enforcement routinely view black men with suspicion.
The video posted on Facebook shows the officer, who identifies himself as Zachary Crossen, in a car asking the pedestrian, who shot the video, if his name is Kevin. Crossen then asks who he is, where he lives, what he does for work and what he’s doing.
The man said he’s going to the barbershop and pressed Crossen to explain why he was stopped.
After a second officer tells the man he’s free to go, Crossen, seemingly sarcastically, tells the man to “have a great day, contributor,” before asking again if he has a job. The confrontation continues — with the man calling Crossen a “pig” — before the two go their separate ways.
Jamarhl Crawford, a longtime activist in Roxbury, said the video a reflection of how black men are regularly treated by police.
“This is not an isolated, one bad cop, incident,” said Crawford, editor of the website Blackstonian . “At any given day, anywhere in America, a black man can just be stopped — not doing anything — and questioned.”
Massachusetts state Rep. Evandro Carvalho called the video “deeply disturbing.”
“Young Black men should not be stopped and harassed for merely walking down the street in Boston,” Carvalho, a Democrat who’s running for district attorney in Suffolk County, said in a statement.
Lt. Det. Michael McCarthy, a police spokesman, said the department was reviewing the video to determine whether any department rules were violated.
McCarthy said officers were monitoring a house in the area when they saw the man who they believed was exhibiting behaviors characteristic of someone carrying a weapon. McCarthy said part of the job of police officers is to engage with community members, but he said there was “a lack of mutual respect on both sides” after the initial interaction.
“We hope from that we can take away that the officer needs to behave better and those that are interacting with the police need to behave better,” McCarthy said.
It’s the second time in a month that Boston police have come under fire from the African-American community.
The department faced heavy criticism earlier this month when it posted a Black History Month tweet about Arnold “Red” Auerbach. The police commissioner later apologized, calling the tweet honoring the late, white former Boston Celtics coach “insensitive.”
The video of the police interaction had more than 1.2 million views before it was taken down from Facebook, Crawford said.
Activists identified the man who took the video as Keith Antonio — the name that he used on social media to protect his privacy. But police identified him as Keith Howard. The man said at a press conference this week that he always tries to record his interactions with police.
“I just want to get justice and want to see if anything can change because a man black man shouldn’t be threatened just walking down the street, going about his day,” he said.