Needham Police Accused of Illegally Handcuffing and Profiling Black Father

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Needham Police Department Accused of Illegally Handcuffing and Profiling Black Father 

A can of tea and some cough drops.

That’s all Marvin Henry was buying when he was—wrongfully—suspected of shoplifting from CVS when he was stopped by multiple Needham police officers, including the Chief of Police, in January 2020 as he was returning to his car after buying lunch near his office. 

Without any warning or explanation, Mr. Henry, a Black father of four who works as a massage therapist in Needham was handcuffed and violently shoved against the side of his van while officers searched his pockets. Mr. Henry was unarmed and holding nothing in his hands that could be mistaken for a weapon. 

For forty minutes, Mr. Henry pleaded with the police to explain why they had stopped him and to loosen the handcuffs injuring his hands, which could have severely impacted his ability to earn a living. He was ignored. Instead, Needham police continued holding him up against the van in plain view of any passersby and in front of a large Starbucks window, humiliating him only a few yards from his place of work. 

When officers finally revealed he had been accused of shoplifting from CVS, Mr. Henry promptly offered to show them his receipt. Although he was released, the officers refused to apologize to Mr. Henry or to explain why the alleged shoplifting of items costing less than $4 by an unarmed man would necessitate such an extreme, violent and dehumanizing response. 

The incident has left Mr. Henry deeply shaken. He knows that just one sudden movement or one misinterpreted word could have meant his death: another George Floyd killed by police. 

Racial profiling and police brutality against Black men and women are not only problems in Minneapolis or New York. It happens right here, in our own backyard. 

Today, Lawyers for Civil Rights sent a demand letter to the Needham Police Department demanding justice for Mr. Henry. It is patently unconstitutional that Black people should be subject to such grossly unlawful treatment because of the color of their skin. For too long, indignity, harassment, and violence have simply been part of the toll exacted for being Black in America. 

We call upon the Needham Police Department to issue an apology to Mr. Henry and institute tangible, structural reforms in training officers. 

The letter sent today to the Needham Police Department on behalf of Mr. Henry is available here