CLEVELAND, Ohio - Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell can’t stop thinking about what happened on campus at Case Western Reserve University Friday.
The upsetting encounter occurred while Conwell was taking his routine morning walk through Ward 9 and across campus.
“I was in Washington D.C. and I thought about it every day...every day, because it makes you think that you’re nothing,” said Conwell.
Conwell says he was walking on Ford Drive around 9 a.m., surrounded by people, when a police cruiser pulled up with its lights flashing and a campus officer demanded his identification.
“So I gave him my ID,” said Conwell. “I said you’re stopping me for no reason and the next thing you know other police cars came moving in.”
The officers said they were following up on a report of a suspicious person bothering students.
A university spokesperson says police thought Conwell’s hat and coat were similar, but Conwell says they weren’t even the same reported color.
He later learned that the 911 caller described the suspicious person as “missing teeth” and mumbling.
Conwell, who pointed out that he has all of his teeth, says the man was a disheveled panhandler.
That’s when the family man, cancer survivor, accomplished musician, and councilman since 2001 came to an upsetting conclusion.
“He just went and picked me because of this,” he said, pointing to his skin. “This right here.”
The university president, police chief and others apologized to the councilman immediately upon learning of the incident.
In a statement sent to Fox 8 News a spokesperson wrote in part:
“We deeply regret that Councilman Conwell was stopped and asked for his identification while on our campus, and are taking steps—specifically additional training—to address the issues this encounter has raised.”
“We will be providing additional education to all officers within the next few weeks.”
Councilman Conwell will also be meeting with the campus police chief to discuss the situation this coming Friday.
Conwell says he has always been an ardent supporter of CWRU and he recognizes the impact the prestigious university has on Cleveland, but he also wants to make sure that everyone is treated equally.
“It’s very, very important,” said Conwell. “Because my residents come through here, and if a councilman can’t walk through Case Western Reserve University than what rights do my residents have?"