OAKLAND -- A black Oakland firefighter said Wednesday that a white police officer was racially motivated in detaining him and his two children during a possible burglary call last month, but police said that a video from the officer's uniform camera showed his actions were appropriate.
Oakland Fire Department engineer Keith Jones said the incident left his two children scared and fearing for their lives. Jones, 43, filed formal complaints with the department's internal affairs division and the Citizens' Police Review Board following what he called a racial profiling incident about 10:50 p.m. Aug. 15 at Fire Station 29 on 66th Avenue.
Jones and his sons Trevon, 9, and Keith II, 12, were returning to the 66th Avenue station, where Jones had parked his car, from a Raiders game at the nearby Oakland Coliseum. Police were called to Station 29 to close a station garage door crews believed they left open while responding to a call, police said.
Police sent an unarmed police service technician to the scene and found the door open and a man and two boys at the station. The technician called Oakland police dispatch for backup and a lone officer arrived.
Arriving on the scene, the officer, hand firmly on his gun, ordered the trio to put their hands up while Jones tried to explain that he is a city firefighter.
"He approached my children first crouched down with his hand on his gun and they said, 'Dad, he scared us,'" said Jones. "I would hope that if my kids were out late and something happened that they would go to a police officer for help. But I don't think they will now. I know they won't now.
"I never once imagined this would happen," he said. "I was treated in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and I think race played an issue."
But as swiftly as the complaint came to light Wednesday, police released a video from an officer's uniform camera, saying that the video showed that the officers "acted within policy."
In the video, an unidentified officer can be heard telling someone to put a bag down, then yelling, "Get your hands up! Get your hands up!" Jones tells the officer that he is an Oakland firefighter.
At least one of the children can be heard crying as Jones tells him, "It's OK, son. It's OK, Keith."
Jones, who has been with the Oakland Fire Department for 16 years, said the fact that he and his children are black changed the dynamic of the call.
"I don't think it would have played out the same way (if we were white). I think this officer looked at my kids from that standpoint that they were up to no good 'cause they are young black kids. This whole incident has taken an emotional toll on them, and it bothers them."
Jones said he continually tried to explain that he was an Oakland firefighter with his vehicle parked outside and a badge in his pocket, but he said the officer refused to listen.
But the video shows the officer calling in Jones' license plate number, then telling one of the children, "It's all right, it's all right." He then instructs Jones to lift his hands high and turn in a circle, then asks him to hand over his ID.
"I really thought he was going to shoot me then because he seemed so unstable," Jones said.
As other officers arrive at the fire station, the officer tells the children, "You can put your hands down, kids. Sorry about that," and tells Jones, "You can relax, too," before going to his squad car to check Jones' license and city ID.
When the officer returns, he tells Jones "I'm sorry for the scare." Jones replies: "No problem, no problem." The officer tells the children: "Sorry about that, guys."
Police on Wednesday evening released a statement from police chief Sean Whent.
"The video footage allows the community to see the events as they occurred. The officers clearly acted within policy. We continue to be committed to transparency,'' he said.
Sgt. Barry Donelan, the police union president, said he was pleased that the department released the video "exonerating a police officer doing his duty and following procedures in responding to a report of a burglary at an Oakland fire house."
"I'm disappointed that some people jumped to conclusions prior to an investigation of the facts," said Donelan.
Jones said after police released the video that he was reviewing the footage, but did not offer an immediate comment.
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report. Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.