A Black Man Was Forced To Leave His Own Pool By An Off-Duty Police Officer In Viral Video

A black man who’s lived in his Indiana apartment complex for over a year says he was racially profiled in another incident involving white people treating black people as suspicious merely for using the same amenities as white residents.

In a video that’s now gone viral, Shayne Holland of Indianapolis can be seen sitting by a pool being confronted by both a property manager and an off-duty police officer asking him to prove his residency at the apartment building. When Holland produces the key that provides him with access to the pool, the officer demands to know the man’s address. Holland refuses to provide his exact address, saying he doesn’t know the officer.

“When she asked where I lived, I said ‘I don’t know you and you haven’t identified yourself, so I’m not just going to give you my address,’” Holland told the Indianapolis Star.

The police officer ordered Holland to leave the pool area for declining to provide his address. “Why do I have to leave my pool?” he asks the property manager, who told him that he has to leave for failing to give his address to the officer.

“Honestly, I don’t want to jump to racism,” Holland said in an interview with Indianapolis’ WRTV. “I don’t want to say she just pointed me out because I’m the only black dude in the pool, but that was the case.”

The company that manages the apartment complex said they’ve placed the property manager seen in the video on administrative leave in a Facebook post about the incident where they admit they should have been more forthcoming with residents about the new security presence.

Holland has asked for an apology from the real estate company for the incident.

“If you need to have somebody make sure that it’s safe and make sure that there are not too many people that don’t live at the pool, I don’t mind that,” Holland told WRTV. “Just let me know that.”

Laws and ethics regulations about off-duty law enforcement working for private companies, or “moonlighting,” vary from state to state. Some prohibit law enforcement officers from wearing their official uniforms and badges while technically in the employ of private companies, while others require it.

Law professor Seth Stoughton University of South Carolina School of Law has studied the thorny legal issues raised by private companies renting out public police officers for security and other work. In a 2016 draft paper studying the issue, Stoughton wrote about “the blurred blue line,”

“From directing traffic at a busy church parking lot to making arrests at a packed nightclub to using deadly force, uniformed off-duty officers exercise the full panoply of police powers while working for private employers.

The private employment of off-duty officers blurs the line between private and public policing, raising questions about accountability, officer decision-making, police/community relationships, and the role that police agencies play in modern society.”

Stoughton has some insight into the phenomenon, as he used to be a policeman himself, working off-duty to provide security for nightclubs while living in Tallahassee, Florida.

In a 2016 interview with Slate, he raised the specter of an incident just like this one and the legal issues it creates.

Liability is a huge issue. And the key question is whether you conceive of the off-duty officer as being a police officer who works for a public agency or whether you conceive of them as working for the private company. Most plaintiffs are probably going to sue both, because there can be ambiguity. For example, if a private employer has a dress code that has racial implications—like, no gold chains, no hats turned backwards, no baggy shorts, no basketball jerseys. These dress codes exist at nightclubs and other places in this country. Can the nightclub have the officer enforce those dress codes? And what happens when the officer does enforce those dress codes and gets sued for discrimination? How much of that is on the officer, how much of that is on the city or the county that employs the officer, and how much of that is on the private employer?

In the video, the property manager certainly seems to indicate the police officer is acting as an agent of the state rather than private security. Indeed, she didn’t tell Holland to leave because he refused to provide his address to a security officer, she identifies the woman, who is displaying her badge, as a “police officer.” It’s yet another law enforcement issue that’s ripe—and long overdue—for reform.