Arlington County

Black Photographer Says Arlington Police Racially Profiled Him After Suspicious Activity Report

“Three cop cars out here for me,” Marlon Crutchfield says on cellphone video he began to record. “I’m an agent and a photographer, and this is what we get in this climate.” 

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For years, Marlon Crutchfield has captured images that help people sell their homes.

As he photographed a home in Arlington County, Virginia, last Monday, he also captured video of his surprise interaction with police. 

Crutchfield, who is Black, was questioned by officers in front of a client after police say someone reported him for suspicious activity. He was not charged with any crime and says he was racially profiled. 

"I hate to make it about race, but when you find Black men being shot down over frivolous calls, America should be ashamed that this is still going on,” Crutchfield said. 

Crutchfield is a real estate agent and photographer. He says he was sitting in his car on S. Orme Street, preparing to photograph a client’s home, when a white man approached his car and asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood. Then, the man gestured for him to leave. 

Crutchfield waited until it was time for his appointment, went into his client’s home and got to work. 

“Like ten minutes later, we hear this knock at the door and it's Arlington County Police Department, and he’s like, ’Sir, we need to step outside. We want to talk to you,’” Crutchfield recalled. 

“Three cop cars out here for me,” he says on cellphone video he began to record. “I’m an agent and a photographer, and this is what we get in this climate.” 

He told the officers he didn’t need to show identification because he hadn’t committed a crime. 

The officers explained that someone had reported him for suspicious activity. Crutchfield's client piped up and called out police. 

“This here is very racist,” she said. 

“This is very racist and this is embarrassing,” Crutchfield said. 

In a statement, Arlington police said “We appreciate that what constitutes suspicious behavior can be ambiguous, but we must work together to ensure police are notified of suspicious behaviors that could represent a threat to our community, while at the same time ensuring that the focus remains on the behaviors of a person and nothing else.”

The president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, Julius Spain, said officers should not have questioned Crutchfield based on the report. 

“What happened?  Why were resources diverted to this location when a gentleman was there working?" Spain asked. 

While the most violent scenes of inequality in America make national headlines, Crutchfield pointed out that even nonviolent interactions like these can hurt people and their communities.

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