Arrest Raises Questions for APD

Video still from residential security camera    Until this footage was released, APD claimed Watkins wasn’t “struck, pushed, slammed or hit.”

About 7:45 a.m., on Saturday, May 23, an anonymous caller to the Alameda Police Department (APD) non-emergency number reported a man walking and “dancing” in the street in the 2000 block of Central Avenue. The caller indicated the subject may be mentally ill or under the influence.

Based on body-camera video released last Friday, June 6, officers responded to the call and approached the subject, who identified himself as an Alameda resident and told officers he was exercising across the street from his home. When the resident tried to walk away the officers physically detained the unarmed resident, identified as Mali Watkins, 44. The incident quickly escalated into Watkins’ arrest. Five police officers took the handcuffed Watkins to the pavement. 

A video of the incident recorded by a camera on a home near where the incident took place was posted to social media and has resulted in an outcry from Alameda residents who found the video disturbing and are questioning the use of force.

APD released a statement on its Facebook page, which said, “At this time we can confirm that the individual in the video (Watkins) was not struck, pushed, slammed or hit.” The statement and comments made by Facebook users were taken down after the neighborhood video was posted. 

APD’s log records the call as an emergency and states that Watkins was arrested for resisting the police. Of concern are the apparent inconsistencies between the video, the police dispatch recording, the APD statement and the dispatch log.  

City Manager Eric Levitt released a statement on the City of Alameda’s website on Thursday, June 5, announcing an independent investigation into the matter. He also expedited the release of the police dispatch recordings and body-camera footage from officers involved in the incident.

Vice Mayor John Knox White hosted a Town Hall Meeting via Zoom Video Conferencing on Sunday, June 7, attended by 500 residents, the maximum permitted by the platform. The meeting was also broadcast on Facebook. Public sentiment ranged from abhorrence, to disappointment, to determination to see that APD policies undergo substantial change.

The Alameda Sun will follow up on this story and report further developments.

 

John Berg writes for the Alameda Sun on assignment. Contact him at editor@alamedasun.com