A Bloomington couple known for their community involvement say a weekend encounter with police and a seemingly hostile neighbor shows Bloomington-Normal still has plenty of work to do to bridge the racial divide.
Art and Camille Taylor said they were the victims of a false police report. They said a neighbor called police on Saturday afternoon to accuse them of driving around Rollingbrook subdivision in southeast Bloomington playing loud music and shouting obscenities toward those who had pro-Donald Trump signs in their yards.
Art Taylor, who serves on the city board that reviews how complaints against the police are resolved, said a Bloomington Police officer accepted the complaint as fact and put them on the defensive, claiming the perpetrators were driving their vehicle.
Taylor called it a case of "parking while black," adding they are only Black people who live in the subdivision.
Camille Taylor, a retired educator and social justice advocate, said it took 20 minutes of discussion for the officer to reveal that the complaint indicated three white men were in the car.
“He’s investigating a complaint from one neighbor to another. Give each neighbor equal respect in trying to get to the facts,” Camille Taylor said. “Don’t take one neighbor’s word and then come around and start accusing the other neighbor.”
Art Taylor said the officer, who has been with BPD since 2016, told him he had evidence provided by the neighbor proving their vehicle was involved. Taylor said after insisting to see the proof, the neighbor produced an image of an empty vehicle with no visible license plate.
The Taylors said the officer suggested the complainant may have presumed it was them because the couple has an anti-Trump sign in their yard. Art Taylor said they put up the sign last month.
Taylor said when he suggested race was a factor in the neighbor’s complaint, the man became enraged, said he had no racial intent and that Taylors should be more concerned with “Black on Black” crime in Chicago.
A neighbor reported pro-Trump signs in their yard had been recently vandalized.
Art Taylor said he and his wife spoke with Bloomington Assistant Police Chief Chad Wamsley about the incident on Monday and was told the department would review officer's body camera footage of the incident.
Taylor said he plans to file a complaint against the officer, but said he doesn’t want to see the officer punished. He said while the officer’s demeanor was professional, his manner was accusatory from the start, even after they presented clear evidence they weren’t behind the disturbance. WGLT is not naming the officer because no complaint has been filed, and BPD has not commented fully on the incident.
Taylor said instead he wants improved officer training.
“If it’s a training issue, then it’s something that can be addressed to correct, then maybe this particular officer will not have the same situation occur to him again,” he said.
Taylor said they are still considering whether to pursue charges for the alleged filing of a false police report.
Camille Taylor said the incident marked the first time in 29 years of living in the neighborhood that she didn’t feel safe, and it’s the first time police were called to their home. The Taylors are in their 60s and live with Camille’s 94-year-old mother.
She said for them to be targeted this way given the years they have invested in the community shows how much more needs to be done to address racial justice.
“I’m not saying we are the best people in the world, but anybody that knows us knows that we work very hard to have this a safe, more inclusive community. So when we are treated like this, we hope that people will wake up, be upstanders as opposed to bystanders and to realize this does happen and it happens every day.”
Wamsley declined to comment pending a review of the case.
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