A Florida cop who became an internet sensation when he was filmed joining a basketball game with a group of teens has come under fire after another video emerged showing him slamming a young black man against his patrol car.
Gainesville Police Officer Bobby White – known as ‘Basketball Cop’ – has been heralded as an example of positive community-police relations ever since his pick-up game with local kids went viral in 2016.
But another side of the cop was captured in a much more menacing video recorded two years earlier, showing White roughing up a black man after stopping him for riding his bike through a stop sign.
The second video came to light in June – effectively stripping White of his role as the face of what good community policing should look like.
Reform advocates in Gainesville and around the country have pointed to the contrasting videos as evidence of how much work still needs to be done to address racial bias in American law enforcement.
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‘Basketball Cop’ Bobby White (left) has come under fire after a video emerged of him slamming a young black man into the hood of his patrol car in 2014
White (center) became a local celebrity in 2016 when he was filmed playing basketball with a group of local teens after responding to a noise complaint about them from a neighbor
Another side of White was captured in a much more menacing video recorded in 2014 and released last month which shows the cop roughing up a black man after stopping him for riding his bike through a stop sign
In January 2016, White was dispatched to a poor neighborhood in Gainesville after someone called 911 to complain about a rowdy basketball game outside their house.
Aahtrell Johnson, then 17, was one of the two teens outside playing hoops when White rolled up in his squad car.
Johnson, who is black, described the moment White arrived in an interview with the New York Times published on Sunday.
He was surprised when, instead of issuing a ticket, White asked to join the game with him and his friend – quickly drawing others out of their homes to play.
The heartwarming exchange was captured in dashcam footage that went viral after it was shared by the Gainesville Police Department.
‘Can you believe that someone called complaining that kids are playing basketball in the street?’ White asks in the video. ‘But I ain’t got no problems with it.’
‘He didn’t look at us like we were criminals,’ Johnson, now 22, told the Times.
Video of White’s encounter with the black teens in 2016 made him a celebrity in the Gainesville community with the nickname ‘Basketball Cop’
The video made White a celebrity in the Gainesville community with the nickname ‘Basketball Cop’.
He went on to found a nonprofit aimed at easing relations between police and black youth in his city, and even drew the attention of NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who came out to play basketball with local teens.
Four years later White made headlines again in May when he condemned the police officers involved in the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for eight minutes.
In a statement expressing his heartbreak, White urged the public not to direct their outrage at police as a whole.
‘I’m FRUSTRATED for the vast majority of the great officers who go out there everyday and do their best to honor their oath, just to have their efforts diminished by incidents like this,’ he wrote.
White received widespread praise for his show of solidarity with the black community – until a month later when a new video suggested that he was part of America’s problem with police brutality.
Aahtrell Johnson, one of the teens White played with in 2016, fondly remembered the encounter with the officer and said: ‘He didn’t look at us like we were criminals’
The basketball game was captured on dash cam footage that went viral after it was released by the Gainesville Police Department
The video of White aggressively confronting a black teen surfaced in June after Chanae Jackson, a real estate agent who was born in Gainesville, received it from a friend and decided others needed to see it too.
Jackson became an outspoken critic of the police a few years ago when her 18-year-old son, Keyon Young, had a troubling encounter with officers.
Young had been pulled over for speeding in 2018, and the traffic stop was captured on dash cam footage.
The footage released by the sheriff’s department showed two white officers rushing toward Young’s Volvo before one yanked open the door and shouted: ‘Exit the vehicle or you’re going to jail.’
The video of White’s violent arrest in 2014 was released by Chanae Jackson, a real estate agent and activist in Gainesville
The officers then lunged into the car and a struggle ensued before one of the officers pointed his weapon at Young’s head.
‘I thought they were going to kill him,’ Jackson said after viewing the video.
Young had called Jackson immediately after he was pulled over, and fearing that the situation could escalate, she rushed to the scene to ensure her son was okay.
When she arrived at the traffic stop she started streaming on Facebook Live, telling her followers of how her son was being taken into custody without reason.
‘Y’all know me, y’all know I don’t ever go live — anything I have to say, I say within the confines of my own home,’ she said in the livestream obtained by the Times. ‘[But] they’ve messed with the wrong child.’
Jackson then rattled off arrest statistics for black people in Gainesville and referred to studies on policing by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
She continued filming for hours until her son was released from custody.
‘I’ve told Keyon, as a Black man in America you have two strikes against you, no matter how well you speak, no matter how well you do,’ she said in the video as Young drove her home from the police station.
Young was later cleared of the speeding charge, but Jackson’s outrage over his arrest persisted, catching the attention of other activists in the city.
Chanae Jackson’s son Keyon Young was violently arrested for speeding in 2018, as seen in the dashcam footage above
Jackson is seen speaking to officers after she arrived to ensure her son was safe
The Gainesville Police Department had undergone retraining with the Justice Department two years earlier, but Jackson and others worked to highlight the fact that racial disparities in law enforcement were still present.
Meanwhile, White served as an outspoken voice insisting that his police department was an example of how officers around the country could fight crime by focusing on community relations.
But Jackson saw things differently, believing that the department’s reforms were hollow and that more needed to be done to stop racial injustice in the city.
She was also skeptical of White and the media attention around his nonprofit, the Basketball Cop Foundation.
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In May, a group of Gainesville police officers who shared Jackson’s concerns about racism within the department reached out to her with the 2014 video of White violently confronting a young black man on the hood of a patrol car after he rode his bike through a stop sign.
A month later, after George Floyd was killed, Jackson released the video on Facebook.
‘The culture of police departments creates an environment where there are no real consequences for these officers,’ she wrote in her post, which quickly went viral.
The 2014 video effectively stripped White of his role as the face of what good community policing should look like
White declined to comment on the 2014 video when approached by the New York Times, but provided an internal report showing he was cleared of wrongdoing
Aahtrell Johnson, the teen White approached in the 2016 basketball video, said his perception of the officer changed drastically after he saw the second video of the 2014 incident.
When he first spoke to the Times, Johnson fondly remembered White as a kind man who became a father figure to him after their pick-up game.
He described how the pair went to see an Orlando Magic game together, and how White stayed in touch with him, helped him get a job after high school and helped him move out of his family’s house.
But after viewing the 2014 video, Johnson said: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a video of every policeman in the world like that. It’s what they’re taught.’
White declined to speak to the Times about the latter video but did provide the newspaper with a 2015 investigation that cleared him of wrongdoing in the confrontation a year earlier.
In previous interviews, White has said that he came to identify with the struggles of black youth in Gainesville over the course of his 12 years with the GPD.
Last year, in a podcast interview, White described how when he was growing up he saw police as ‘superheroes’ – but when he joined the GPD in 2008 he discovered that children there didn’t see him that way.
‘I noticed right away that the kids were scared of us,’ he said.
After the basketball video propelled him into the national spotlight, White founded Basketball Cop Foundation, which distributes basketballs to police departments around the country to help them form better relationships with their communities.
‘It’s no secret that there is a damaged relationship between our country’s law enforcement and the youth in the communities we serve,’ White wrote in the foundation’s mission statement.
‘I also believe that kids do not prefer to feel this way, but society, with the help of social media and the news has influenced them.’
White’s image of a friendly neighborhood cop was shattered when Jackson posted the video of his 2014 confrontation with a black man, revealing how deep racial injustice runs in American law enforcement.
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