Fitting The Description Statement on Call For Formal Investigation of West Hollywood Sheriff Department by Entertainer Wyclef Jean

All of us must be willing to take our stories forward for there to ever be justice.

West Hollywood, CA, USA — Fitting The Description founder and executive director Charles Belk issued the following statement about the detainment and handcuffing of entertainer Wyclef Jean because he was “fitting the description” and his call for a formal investigation into the matter by the West Hollywood Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.

“It’s inspiring to hear that Wyclef Jean is calling for a formal investigation. More attention needs to continuously be brought to those incidents like Wyclef’s, because it gives society a chance to possibly disclose the underlying cause. We seem to focus on only those incidents where an apparently innocent Black man ends up dead, and at that point, while you may or may not have some video, you indeed only have one side of the story, because, unfortunately, the other side can’t be told. I was fortunate to be able to tell my side of the story, and to see someone with the celebrity status of Wyclef be willing to take his story forward in search of the truth is what we always should do. All of us, need to take our stories forward. Don’t think that just because you’re not a famous entertainer or a “Hollywood Producer”, that people won’t listen. They WILL listen. Social media is definitely listening, and it has millions of ears! We have to all be willing to get M.A.D., and Make A Difference. I strongly encourage the new commander of the West Hollywood Station, Captain Sergio A. Aloma, and West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister to honor Mr. Jean’s request and launch an investigation immediately.”

On August 22, 2014, Charles Belk was mistakenly identified as an armed bank robber because he fit the description of a tall, bald, Black male. Although Belk was held on the curb in handcuffs for 45 minutes, and then arrested and held under a $100,000 bail for 6 hours, he was later released as innocent. Since his arrest, Charles Belk, a long-time West Hollywood-adjacent resident, launched a nationwide effort, #AutoErase, through the non-profit Fitting The Description, to educate and inform those about the perils of wrongful arrest records, and engage legislation to alleviate the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records. The legislation has been signed into law in four states and is now current legislation in 14 states.

About Fitting The Description
Fitting The Description, a 501.c.3, tax exempt, non-profit organization, was established to help build awareness of wrongful detentions and arrests that occur each day because an individual “fit the description.” The organization helps educate and inform others about the perils of wrongful arrests records, and advocates for alleviating the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.

Media Contact:
Mark Williams
Fitting The Description Inc.
PO Box 93181
Los Angeles, CA 90093
213-632-6390
mwilliams@fittingthedescription.org
http://www.fittingthedescription.org

Rhode Island Becomes 4th State To Pass AutoErase Legislation

Pawtucket’s Representative Carlos Tobon’s bill is part of a nationwide effort to reduce the burden placed on innocent individuals wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity.

Fitting The Description Logo

Providence, RI, USA — Rhode Island becomes the fourth state to pass #AutoErase legislation which requires that arrest records are automatically erased of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity. The bills, HB 7094, and it’s companion bill, SB2421 – “Requires the sealing and destruction of arrest records of persons wrongfully arrested,” were introduced and championed by Rep. Carlos Tobon (D-Pawtucket) and Senator Juan Pichardo (D-Providence), respectively. Rhode Island joins North Carolina, Illinois and Colorado in passing a piece of criminal justice reform legislation that was born out of the wrongful arrest of Hollywood independent producer and entertainment industry executive, Charles Belk in August of 2014. #AutoErase legislation has been signed into law in North Carolina, Illinois and Colorado, and is currently pending legislation Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Innocent people in Rhode Island, as well as throughout the country, are wrongfully charged each year with a felony or misdemeanor crime because the charges were issued as the result of mistaken identity (i.e., misidentification by a witness or law enforcement, confusion on the part of a witness or law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, misinformation provided to law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, or some other mistake on the part of a witness or law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime), or because someone else used their information. Because the responsibility to remove a wrongful arrest record falls on the charged individual, he or she is burden with the expenses and time required to handle such a task. If a person does not have the erroneous arrest record removed, it can greatly affect his or her ability in the future to get a job, a loan or certain licenses. The Rhode Island legislation requires that any law enforcement agency, subsequent to the arrest of any person, that determines such person was wrongfully or incorrectly arrested as a result of mistaken identity or any other reason or wrongfully fingerprinted, photographed or otherwise has generated any record of arrest for investigatory purposes and as a result of such wrongful arrest, no charges have been filed in any court of the state, seal all such arrest records and destroy all identifying information and indices of arrest. Notwithstanding a veto by the Governor, the new law will take affect on July 1, 2016.

“If someone is wrongful arrested because law enforcement is doing their job, it’s only fair that their record is cleaned up,” Representative Tobon said. “Getting a faulty arrest record erased currently is a long and costly process and many people are being harmed by simple background checks.”

Charles Belk falsely arrested on August 22, 2014

On August 22, 2014, Charles Belk was mistakenly identified as an armed bank robber because he fit the description of a tall, bald, Black male. He was handcuffed, detained, taken to the police station, booked, denied a phone call, denied being told his charges, denied immediate access to an attorney, jailed for six hours for Armed Bank Robbery and Accessory to Armed Robbery and held under a $100,000 bail. Although he was released later that night and given a Certificate of Detention, which indicated he was only detained and not arrested, an arrest record appeared on the Sheriff’s website and a state legal process had to be followed to get the arrest record sealed and destroyed. Since his arrest, Belk launched a nationwide effort, through the non-profit he founded (fittingthedescription.org) and his #AutoErase Initiative, to educate and inform those about the perils of wrongful arrest records, and engage legislation to alleviate the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.

“Since the wrongful arrest incident, I have seen the #AutoErase legislation introduced in 14 states, and Rhode Island was one of those state that I had the opportunity to visit on several different occasion, meeting and talking with community leaders and officials, including Providence NAACP President Jim Vincent, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, and Pawtucket Police Chief Paul King, among many others,” said Charles Belk. “This is an incredible piece of legislation for the good people of the great state of Rhode Island, and I’m truly grateful for the support from the community and the state legislators.”

Fitting The Description, a 501.c.3, tax exempt, non-profit organization, was established to help build awareness of wrongful detentions and arrests that occur each day because an individual “fit the description.” The organization helps educate and inform others about the perils of wrongful arrests records, and advocates for alleviating the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.

Media Contact:
Mark Williams
Fitting The Description Inc.
PO Box 93181
Los Angeles, CA 90093
213-632-6390
mwilliams@fittingthedescription.org
http://www.fittingthedescription.org

Colorado Becomes 3rd State to Pass AutoErase Legislation

Wrongful arrest of Hollywood entertainment industry exec, Charles Belk, is inspiring automatic expungement legislation across the nation. Colorado becomes the third state to pass #AutoErase legislation which requires that arrest records are automatically erased of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity. The bill, HB16-1265 – “Expungement of Arrest Records Based On Mistaken Identity,” was introduced and championed by Rep. Jovan Melton and Rep. Daneya Esgar.

Denver, CO, USA — Colorado becomes the third state to pass #AutoErase legislation which requires that arrest records are automatically erased of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested due to mistaken identity. The bill, HB16-1265 – “Expungement of Arrest Records Based On Mistaken Identity,” was introduced and championed by Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) and Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston (D-Denver) and Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley). Colorado joins North Carolina and Illinois in passing a piece of criminal justice reform legislation that was born out of the wrongful arrest of Hollywood independent producer and entertainment industry executive, Charles Belk.

On August 22, 2014, Charles Belk was mistakenly identified as an armed bank robber because he fit the description of a tall, bald, Black male. He was handcuffed, detained, taken to the police station, booked, denied a phone call, denied being told his charges, denied immediate access to an attorney, jailed for six hours for Armed Bank Robbery and Accessory to Armed Robbery and held under a $100,000 bail. Although he was released later that night and given a Certificate of Detention, which indicated he was only detained and not arrested, an arrest record appeared on the Sheriff’s website and a state legal process had to be followed to get the arrest record sealed and destroyed. Since his arrest, Belk launched a nationwide effort, through the non-profit he founded, fittingthedescription.org, and his #AutoErase Initiative, to educate and inform those about the perils of wrongful arrest records, and engage legislation to alleviate the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.

#AutoErase legislation has been signed into law in both North Carolina and Illinois, and is currently pending legislation in 11 other states (Rhode Island, Connecticut, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Arizona, South Carolina, and Nebraska).

Innocent people in Colorado, as well as throughout the country, are wrongfully charged each day with a felony or misdemeanor crime because the charges were issued as the result of mistaken identity (i.e., misidentification by a witness or law enforcement, confusion on the part of a witness or law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, misinformation provided to law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, or some other mistake on the part of a witness or law enforcement as to the identity of the person who committed the crime), or because someone else used their information. Because the responsibility to remove a wrongful arrest record falls on the charged individual, he or she is burden with the expenses and time required to handle such a task. If a person does not have the erroneous arrest record removed, it can greatly affect his or her ability in the future to get a job, a loan or certain licenses. This bill requires that a court shall expunge the arrest and criminal records information of a person who was arrested as a result of mistaken identity and who did not have charges filed against him or her.

“This is an incredible piece of legislation, and so many Coloradoans probably do not fully understand or are unaware of the perils of having a wrongful arrest record,” Charles Belk said. “But even more incredible, as I travel from state to state, is to see the true advantage of bipartisanship and how a body of elected officials can be so effective when they work together across party lines, as was the case with this bill and members of the Colorado General Assembly.”

Four bills were introduced in 2016 in the Colorado General Assembly aimed at “rebuilding trust” between police and the community, and have received bipartisan support, in an effort organized by Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver). The other three bills are – HB16-1264, prohibiting the use of a chokehold unless self-defense; HB16-1263, expanding the definition of profiling; and HB16-1262, addressing officers hiding a serious offense, resigning and applying for a job with a different police force. ” All four bills have passed both chambers, and the #AutoErase Bill was the first to do so.

Fitting The Description, a 501.c.3, tax exempt, non-profit organization, was established to help build awareness of wrongful detentions and arrests that occur each day because an individual “fit the description.” The organization helps educate and inform others about the perils of wrongful arrests records, and advocates for alleviating the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.

Charles Belk was born and raised in Durham, NC, and is a producer at and president of I Will Make You a Star Productions, a Los Angeles-based, social/digital marketing and production company. He is also the founder and executive director of Fitting The Description Inc. Charles Belk is a graduate of Durham Hillside High School and received a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University, and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard Business School.

Media Contact:
Mark Williams
Fitting The Description Inc.
PO Box 93181
Los Angeles, CA 90093
213-632-6390
mwilliams@fittingthedescription.org
http://www.fittingthedescription.org