TIMMONSIVLLE, S.C. — The NAACP is conducting an internal investigation into a report made by the Timmonsville branch president alleging racial profiling.
The Rev. Jerrod Moultrie, president of the Timmonsville Branch of the NAACP, said he was racially profiled by a Timmonsville police officer during a traffic stop last month. Moultrie recapped his conversation with the officer on his Facebook page, but later removed the post.
A body camera video shows that Timmonsville police officer Chris Miles told Moultrie the reason for the traffic stop was that he hadn't signaled when he made a right turn.
In the Facebook post, Moultrie said the officer questioned him about why he was in that particular neighborhood, where he worked, who his vehicle belonged to and if he had any drugs in the car.
“This officer thought he had some drugs or something cause since when 2 patrol car stops one car on a turn signal issue,” Moultrie said in the post. “Guess I can’t be a pastor and can’t drive a Mercedes Benz and live in a nice neighborhood.”
The body camera video provided by the Timmonsville Police Department contradicts the claims made by Moultrie in his Facebook post.
Moultrie asserted that two different police officers questioned him after his car was stopped in the subdivision in which he resides, according to a media advisory from the NAACP.
“According to Rev. Moultrie, the body cam footage captures the arrival of the second police cruiser on the scene, but does not capture his interaction with the officer who conducted the initial stop – in a separate vehicle – and who interacted with Rev. Moultrie before the second police cruiser arrived,” the NAACP said.
Timmonsville Police Chief Billy Brown said at no time was another officer involved in the traffic stop with Moultrie.
“That’s just another lie by Moultrie,” Brown said.
Miles made the initial traffic stop, according to Brown. A trooper did arrive at the scene, but did not leave the doorway of his vehicle, Brown said.
The NAACP’s media advisory said racial profiling in the context of traffic stops concerns the reasons for stopping a particular vehicle at a particular time, not whether the officer conducting the stop, or any other officer on the scene, is impolite.
“In the incident involving Rev. Moultrie, the officer in the body cam footage states that the reason for the stop was the driver’s failure to signal for a turn,” the NAACP said. “Whether that justification is a pretext for racial discrimination is an issue separate and distinct from whether any officer displayed racial bias against Rev. Moultrie during the stop.”
Dwight C. James Sr., executive director of the S.C. State Conference of NAACP, said the organization is gathering additional evidence before it makes any comment on the body camera video or on actions against Moultrie or any other person.
“But, we view it as a serious charge not to be taken lightly,” James said.
The organization wants to ensure it does a thorough examination, he said. The NAACP has received calls from people “who are basing their opinions on the content of the video and advising that he (Moultrie) should resign, he should be fired, he should be whatever else they can imagine,” James said.
Moultrie has not returned a call to the Morning News for comments about his allegations of racial profiling. He did send an email Thursday accusing the Morning News of defaming his character in an article published on May 13.
Moultrie said Timmonsville Councilman Curtis Harris gave the Morning News misleading information when he said a closed vote was taken for Moultrie to be named the branch’s president. Harris said the vote was rigged, and Moultrie was “anointed” as president of the Timmonsville Branch of the NAACP by James.
“Now I am hoping you can resolve this issue without me having to force you in court to by taking any legal action,” Moultrie said in the email to the Morning News. “It needs to be clearly stated Timmonsville Councilman Curtis Harris gave you misleading information about my position as president and he was there at the election when Rev. Moultrie was elected as president and He has no affiliate with Timmonsville Naacp and is not. A member in good standing with the local branch.”
James said a special election was held Nov. 21, 2017, in which Moultrie was elected president of the Timmonsville Branch of the NAACP. He said there were “nominations from the floor, and then voting took place. And of course those who received the majority votes for the various offices, they assumed those positions.”
The special election took place as part of a reorganization of the Timmonsville branch and was supervised by the state conference office, according to James.
“They didn’t hold an election in 2016,” James said. “And so there were members in the community that wanted to reorganize. And then we laid out a process for them to get there. And we assisted them in achieving that goal.”
Moultrie told the Morning News in July 2017 that the Timmonsville Branch of the NAACP wanted to start bridging the gap in the community. At that time, the branch wanted to address issues including school board inadequacies, unjust city ordinances, low voter registration and the lack of police presence.
These problems, Moultrie said in 2017, are linked to common causes – the lack of accountability of elected officials and electing leaders based on history rather than credibility.