When a black jogger was detained by police for fitting the description of a burglary suspect, he began to live-stream his encounter on Facebook. The footage quickly went viral, garnering even more attention when a Florida sheriff made the man a job offer.
Joseph Griffin, a former military policeman who works as a registered nurse, was out for a jog when he was stopped by a police officer, who said he fit the description of a burglary suspect. The Volusia County, Florida deputy told Griffin that authorities were looking for a bearded black male wearing a white tank top and dark shorts — a description which matched Griffin’s appearance.
“You’re not in any in trouble or anything, there’s, uh, a burglary that happened — you kind of fit the description,” a deputy can be heard telling Griffin on bodycam video.
“Really?” Griffin responds.
Shocked, the registered nurse pulled out his cellphone and began shooting a Facebook Live video of the interaction after handing the officer his identification. “I figured if there were eyes on, then nothing bad would have happened,” he said, explaining why he decided to live-stream the encounter, according to WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando.
“Just let me make sure you’re not him,” the officer reassures Griffin. “Literally, they said, ‘White tank top, black shorts.’ And they said that you had a beard. I’m not saying it’s you, but it was a black male, again, not saying it’s you, buddy.”
The deputy handcuffs Griffin, who tells his viewers, “If something happens to me, y’all better raise hell.” After a helicopter flies overhead, Griffin adds, “It’s just a lot going on today,” likely referring to the controversial encounters between black men and the police that often fill the news, the NY Post reported.
“We’re the same, you know me, I’ma take care of you,” the deputy says, reassuring Griffin again that he has nothing to fear as his bodycam records the incident. And, just as promised, the encounter ends without incident as Griffin is cleared and the police arrest the real suspect. However, the story doesn’t end there.
After The West Volusia Beacon published a story with the headline, “‘I fit a description’: Deltona man detained while jogging,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood posted his deputy’s 18-minute bodycam video to Facebook.
“To me, the implication in the tone of this article is that our deputies did something wrong here,” Chitwood explained. “So I want to take a moment to stand up and recognize the great work of every deputy involved in this call. Not only were they respectful to Mr. Griffin – they held his phone for him so he could stay on video on Facebook Live.”
The sheriff not only praised his deputies’ “outstanding job, given the limited information they had about a call in progress,” but he also commended Mr. Griffin, who “was calm and cooperative even though he had reason to be frustrated with the inconvenience.”
To each and every deputy who was involved in this response, I am extremely proud of your hard work and dedication. This is exactly the kind of effort that has allowed us to cut down the crime rate in Deltona.
To Mr. Griffin, I appreciate your cooperation with these deputies, and I’d like to invite you on a ride-along sometime in the future.
Chitwood also had a few words for “some of the harsher critics who have been second-guessing and criticizing these deputies on social media.” Fed-up with the armchair quarterbacks, he said, “I think you need to put yourselves in these deputies’ shoes. I don’t think just anyone can fill them.” There was one person, however, who he thought could do the job and do it well — Joseph Griffin.
According to WTSP, the sheriff offered the former military policeman a job. After explaining that Griffin would join the office during an implicit bias training session, the sheriff added that the former military policeman could have a new job if he wanted. “I told him we’d train and hire him as a deputy in a second if he ever wants a new job,” Chitwood wrote on Facebook.
“I also just want to say again how proud I am of the deputies who handled this call. Granted, nothing like Facebook Live existed when I was starting out, but I don’t know if a young Mike Chitwood would have kept a live video running for somebody I was detaining,” Chitwood continued. “These guys did it because in that moment, they understood what it meant to Mr. Griffin, who was going out of his way to be cooperative and respectful.”
Indeed, there is a lot that can be learned from this video. “This is one of the best examples that I’ve seen as far as civilians being compliant and officers actually trying to assure the civilians that we’re not out to get you,” Griffin said, crediting remaining calm for helping to keep the interaction under control. “No one will say you’re wrong for being frustrated because it’s scary and frustrating. But, I will say if you remain calm, at least 85% of the time the situation will go your way,” he explained. “Yes, the officer has authority, but in the end, you have control.”