February 1, 2016 Belfast, Maine On January 21 2016 Orson Titus went before the Belfast City Council and spoke during the public segment. It was about an encounter he had on January 7, 2016 with a Maine Trooper leaving him in fear for his life.Titus introduced himself as “the poet laureate of Belfast” (he is AKA Toussaint St. Negritude) and he goes on to state “I recently had an encounter of, as I interpreted a pretty severe case of racial profiling, to the point where my life has been threatened, and I’m hoping for the best,”
He stated to the council that he had left the public library in Liberty on foot when he was stopped by a Trooper for no apparent reason and questioned for a half an hour “What are you doing here?” and “Do you have any guns, knives, sharp objects of weapons on you?”.
He stated “I was repeatedly asked the two questions over and over and over again” as he banged his hand on the podium. “what are you doing here? What are you doing here?” And he responded, “I’m coming from the library. I live two blocks from the library.”
He continued that she repeatedly asked “do you have any guns, knives, sharp objects or weapons on you?” to which he stated “No, I’ve never owned a weapon.”
“and this was repeated over and over and over again for a half an hour. I realize this isn’t the Town of Liberty where it happened but I thought you should know. It happened in front of the Town Clerks home .. Gail and her husband Dana who are friends of his.”
He states that he had to tell them about it because they didn’t see the “huge” blue lights that “flooded their living room”. The Town clerk has filed a complaint with the NAACP on his behalf because is life was being threatened as have other people.
He feels that he is under threat of retaliation now that he has ‘exposed’ this threat on his life. He now wants assurances for his safety.
In his announcement to the council he said “If anyone has reason to have doubts about me and the questioning, feel free. But not for a half hour. Not with your hand on your gun. Not with a spotlight in my face. Not with a solid two years of innocent black men being gunned down without charge.”
“I don’t think racial profiling should be part of our community. Consequently the day of the governors recent statement about black men impregnating white women happened the following day.”
“I was harassed on January 7th and I believe he made that statement on January 8th”
Titus has told other sources in print now that his father and 29-year-old nephew would like to visit him this summer. But he does not want them to visit in what he once thought was an inviting place because he is now terrified. “I’ve never been so frightened in my life,” he said. “So in terror of my potential of getting shot.”
The Maine State Police have taken the incident seriously as well and investigated it. They have posted their investigation directly to their Facebook Page as a sign of Openness to the public along with Video evidence of the stop.
MAINE STATE POLICE RESPOND TO ALLEGATIONS OF RACIAL PROFILING
On January 7, 2016 Maine State Trooper Sarah Ferland was traveling through Liberty on Main Street when she swerved to avoid hitting a person walking with traffic near the white fog line and wearing dark clothing. She turned around to tell the person she almost hit them and they needed to walk facing traffic. Shortly after she spoke to the man, he went to a friend, who made a complaint on his behalf accusing Trooper Ferland of racial profiling. A sergeant spoke to the friend and listened to her version of the event. The sergeant immediately contacted the Trooper, and then viewed her dash cam video of the incident. The video of the conversation was drastically different than the version given by the complainant. The sergeant called the complainant back and explained that the video showed an entirely different scenario.
On January 21, 2016 we were made aware of strong accusations of the State Police conducting racial profiling regarding this incident. The public accusation was made on January 19th at the Belfast City Council meeting during their public discussion segment. Among his accusations was that “his life was threatened”, “he was held for over a half hour” and “repeatedly asked the same two questions over and over and over again.”
The State Police have reviewed both the Belfast City Council video where the accusations were made and the dash cam video from the Trooper. The State Police investigate all complaints made by the public against troopers. This case was handled no differently.
Trooper Ferland stopped and spoke to Orson Titus, also known as Toussaint St. Negritude, because she almost struck him while he was walking along the side of the road. The reason for this conversation was to tell him, as she did, that he needed to walk against traffic for his safety. The brief interaction between Trooper Ferland and Mr. Titus lasted less than 5 minutes and during that time she was polite and cordial and treated him with respect. Trooper Ferland’s handling of the incident was well within standard police operating procedure and was made for his own personal safety in light of the 19 pedestrian fatals that took place in Maine during 2015, the highest number since 1994.
While the State Police can appreciate that some people may feel scared or intimidated by the police; it is unfortunate how one person’s version of the events are completely different from what the Trooper’s dash cam shows.
We are disheartened that Mr. Titus would use a public forum to impugn the reputation of a hardworking and dedicated Trooper and the Maine State Police by telling a story that is not supported by facts.
Both Orson Titus’ address to the Belfast City Council and the Trooper’s dash cam video are linked below. We encourage the public to look at both and come to their own conclusion.
(Belfast City Meeting) https://youtu.be/Lyc45Lot9Mk
(Tpr. Ferland Video) https://youtu.be/C2hfYKTrmu4
(The brief segment of muted audio in the cruiser video is to protect the date of birth information of Mr. Titus.)
Trooper Ferland Dashcam Video
The Statement of Titus at the Town Council Meeting
Mr. Titus may perceive his stop as having been racially motivated a few facts are indisputable.
- It was dark out and he could have been struck by a vehicle because he was wearing dark clothing
- The Trooper had to actually leave her lane to avoid hitting him as she drove at the last minute. It is a safety issue.
- Titus is walking with his back to the Trooper, hood up, in the dark, no street lights, how would she have racially profiled him for the stop in the first place?
- Had he been walking on the other side of the roadway he would have been more visible
- The stop was not 30 minutes long it was 5 minutes long
- There was no spot light in his face
- The Trooper was not threatening his life
- The Trooper was not shining a spotlight in his face, the interview was conducted outside the spotlights view
- Asking a person if they have weapons is standard practice for Law Enforcement Officers for their safety. They have no idea who they are talking to.
- The Trooper was concerned for HIS safety stating she might have hit him herself, showing that other vehicles may hit him as well. She did not want to see him get hurt.
- The Trooper’s voice was never raised or threatening in fact she wishes him to “have a good night and be safe”
- There is no indication that he is in any situation of being threatened now.