Sykes apologizes to police over profiling accusationsWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Amanda Tindall, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes issued a public apology May 14 to Toledo police for any “misunderstanding” caused by an investigation of potential racial profiling at traffic stop in April, insisting he never meant to allege he had been racially profiled.
After his encounter with police in South Toledo on April 24, Sykes sent a letter to Chief William Moton claiming he had been pulled over without cause. The letter sparked an internal police “abuse of authority” investigation. The report, released May 13, found the claim to be unfounded.
“Chief Moton, as I drove away I became very angry, because he had no justification nor did he give me a decent reason for stopping me,” Sykes wrote in the letter dated April 30. “Stating that he stopped me because he could not read my license plate, my license plate reads 4DRWBLK which stands for ’4 driving while black.’ My anger stems from the fact that I did not run a red light, I was not speeding, nor was I weaving or driving recklessly. So why would he need to check the license plate or what cause would he have had, the only reason that I can come up with, is that I was profiled.”
“There was nothing in there racially,” Sykes said of the letter May 14. “[It was about] randomly stopping. What gives cause to be able to stop a person?
“Profiled means like if you stop at the light and turn and go too fast,” Sykes said. “If you go through this report, they say that they look at people in that area. It’s not about color. It’s about if they’re in a gang or they’re driving drunk or something like that. You can be stopped because you’re young, and you look like you don’t have a license. I know what racial profiling is. This was not racial profiling.
“It can’t be racial profiling because it’s night. They can’t see in my car. I couldn’t see in their car,” Sykes said. “The whole point is, can you just stop someone for license plates?”
Sykes was pulled over because police noticed he didn’t have a front license plate and could not read his back plate.
“My license plates are big and bold, and it makes no sense why he would not be able to read it,” Sykes wrote in his letter. “I’ve had these license plates for the last 20 years, and it is because I have been profiled so many times and stopped for driving while black.”
At the May 14 press conference, however, Sykes agreed that the police had probable cause because his license plate was not readable. His back license plate was dirty and had a plastic cover over it, which was also dirty and blurred the license plate numbers. He said his front plate had fallen off at a car wash and he was looking for it.
After reading the report, Sykes said he now understands that the law requires that both front and back license plates must be readable.
“It clearly states that the police officers could not read my plates, and I agree with him on this. If I have caused any misunderstanding, I sincerely apologize and support our police force in the job that they do.”
Asked if he thought there was racial profiling in Toledo, Sykes declined to comment.
“I’m not going to speak on that. I’m not here about that. I’m here about a situation I asked to clear up if I could be stopped and what gives probable cause. That has been answered and I hope others learn from it.”
Toledo Free Press Managing Editor Sarah Ottney contributed to this report.