Alabama cops said they were responding to a call of a “suspicious person” when they arrested a local pastor while watering his neighbor’s flowers on May 22.
Childersburg police said they arrested Michael Jennings for failing to identify himself but body camera footage released this week showed they followed through with the arrest even after seeing his identification.
And even after the caller admitted she had made a mistake.
One cop even told Jennings’ wife that they were unable to “unarrest” him even after they had identified him and determined he was breaking no law. Charges were dismissed within two weeks.
Jennings, a former cop, said he is now proceeding with a lawsuit, according to WBRC.
While it’s true that Alabama is a “stop and ID” state, the law requiring citizens to identify themselves only applies if a law enforcement officer has a reasonable suspicious they are committing a crime.
In this case, Jennings was clearly watering the flowers and continued to do so after greeting police. He also identified himself as “Pastor Jennings” and pointed to his home, telling the cops his neighbors had asked them to water their flowers while they were out of town.
But the former cop refused to provide identification on the basis that he was doing nothing illegal. And that should have become clear to the cops after talking to the neighbor who had called police in the first place, obviously not recognizing her neighbor.
“Yeah, he lives right there and he would be watering their flowers, this is probably my fault,” the woman told the cops.
The woman then notified Jennings’ wife who came out with her husband’s identification to show the cops while he was sitting in the back of a patrol car. But they told her they were required to transport him to jail anyway.
“She does tell us it’s a mistake and all that stuff,” a cop told the pastor’s wife.
“But at this point, he’s already collected the charge. Once we place him under arrest, we can’t un-arrest him. Does that make sense?”
UPDATE: Attorneys representing Jennings issued the following statement:
“This video makes it clear that these officers decided they were going to arrest Pastor Jennings less than five minutes after pulling up and then tried to rewrite history claiming he hadn’t identified himself when that was the first thing he did,” said Daniels. “This was not only an unlawful arrest. It’s kidnapping.”
“It’s irrational, irresponsible and illegal.”
In the video, the arresting officers can be heard repeatedly claiming that the entire situation could have been avoided if Pastor Jennings had only identified himself. However, just seconds into the interaction, Pastor Jennings clearly tells the officer, “I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street.”
Furthermore, Alabama’s Stop and Identify Law did not require Pastor Jennings, a former police officer himself, to identify himself because he was not in a public place. The charges against Pastor Jennings were dismissed by a municipal judge in June.
“Chief McClelland and the Childersburg Police Department may think all they have to do is drop the charges and this all goes away,” said Jones. “This was a crime, not a mistake. I would hope that the Childersburg Police Department would understand the difference.”
Watch the shortened video below or the full video here.