Paul McCowns was simply trying to cash his first paycheck from his brand-new job when he found himself handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car after a bank teller called the police, wrongly believing the check was fraudulent.
Now Huntington Bank is apologizing and the incident has sparked a new hashtag: #BankingWhileBlack.#
McCowns, a resident of Cleveland, went to a branch in Brooklyn, Ohio on December 1 to cash his paycheck, which was just over $1,000 police and bank officials say, NBC News reports. he told police he’d provided two forms of identification as well as his fingerprints. This is standard procedure for anyone not having an account at the bank.
Bank representatives told NBC News they tried to contact his employer but were unsuccessful. So McCowns,30, left the bank empty-handed and the situation went from bad to worse. That’s when he found himself handcuffed and in the back of a police car, CNN reports.
When he asked what was happening, a police officer told him a bank employee had called 911. The person can be heard here, in a recording of the 911 call obtained by police:
“I have a customer here — he’s not our customer actually. He’s trying to cash a check and the check is fraudulent. It does not match our records.”
But McCowns did everything the employee had asked him to do. The whole situation was extremely frustrating he said.
“It was highly embarrassing. Highly embarrassing,” McCowns told a CBS News affiliate. “The person who made that phone call — that manager, that teller — whoever made that phone call, I feel as though they were judging.”
In a statement, the Brooklyn Police Department that McCowns was released when his employer was contacted and the paycheck was verified.
“We were called to the bank on the report of a fraudulent check. We were given a description of the individual. When we arrived the male was leaving his vehicle. He was not arrested but he was detained until our officers could figure out what was going on,” Brooklyn Police Chief Scott Mielke said in a statement.
In a statement of apology to McCowns, bank representatives had this to say:
“We sincerely apologize to Mr. McCowns for this extremely unfortunate event. We accept responsibility for contacting the police as well as our own interactions with Mr. McCowns. Anyone who walks into a Huntington branch should feel welcomed. Regrettably, that did not occur in this instance and we are very sorry. We hold ourselves accountable to the highest ethical standards in how we operate, hire and train colleagues, and interact with the communities we have the privilege of serving.”
Fortunately, McCowns was able to cash his paycheck at a different bank branch the next day. He understandably feels he was racially profiled and wants an apology from the branch. He’s also asking for the employees involved to be held accountable.
One has to ask if this would have happened if McCowns was white. And why did the police handcuff him? Wouldn’t it have been enough just to detain him without doing this until they received the necessary information? We can now add this insult to the lengthening list of #BarbecuingWhileBlack, #BabySittingWhileBlack, #CampaigningWhileBlack due to white people calling the cops for a variety of dumb reasons.
Maybe there should be another new hashtag: #DoingAnythingWhileBlack.
Watch the video below to find out more:
Featured image by NBC News via YouTube video