A Baltimore high school principal is speaking out about how he was treated like “the n-word” by a white police officer in one of the city’s suburbs in late July.
Vance Benton, principal of Patterson High School in East Baltimore, claims he was insulted and demeaned by the officer in Owings Mills, Md., as he and his teen son watched the arrest of a young Black male a block from their home.
Benton was not involved in the crime that police were investigating but said he wanted to make sure the Black man at the scene of the incident was being properly handled by the officers.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Benton detailed the July 29 experience, during which the white officer approached him and “ranted” about how people try to hinder investigations. He also warned Benton: “Don’t you buck up at me.”
“Did you see me buck up or even raise my voice?” Benton said he asked his son. “I told him that’s how Black boys and men get killed by the police when police choose to see things that are not there.”
The officer, whose name is being withheld by the department, then shined a flashlight in Benton’s face. When Benton asked for his name and tried to read his badge through the light, the policeman asked: “‘Can you even read?’ Then he spelled out his name “in an exaggerated way,'” Benton told The Sun.
“He saw me as the ‘n-word’ and not as a Black man with his son. He saw me as another opportunity to degrade someone and he relished that opportunity to do it in front of my son,” Benton said.
The officer then told his son, Taj, that “I will be seeing you again,” implying the teenager is bound for trouble and run-ins with the law.
Benton alerted the county’s new police chief Melissa R. Hyatt and about the policeman’s “innate racial biases and belittling actions,” writing in a letter that he experienced “degradation, disrespect and humiliation,” according to The Sun.
“The lives of innocent citizens, especially those that are African American, are in jeopardy if (the officer’s) innate racial biases and his belittling actions to ‘bait’ citizens into being arrested aren’t analyzed and addressed immediately,” Benton wrote in the letter.
Baltimore County police confirmed the matter was under investigation and have refused The Sun’s request for the release of the officer’s bodycam footage.