Chattanooga officer David Campbell was fired in February for unlawful arrest and driving recklessly while on duty. The Times Free Press took an in-depth look into Campbell’s driving habits, documenting several cases where Campbell chose to dangerously exceed the speed limits in order to arrive on the scene of calls for backup and other matters. But it’s the video of Campbell’s arrest of Hanson Melvin which caught our attention and serves as a sort of prophetic word for police officers who abuse their power to harass, intimidate, and arrest citizens unlawfully.
Melvin was reportedly walking outside of the Northgate Crossing Apartments when Campbell approached him and seemingly sarcastically inquired about whether or not Melvin had gotten his driver’s license back or not. The tone and the comment provoked Melvin, who responded by telling Campbell it was “none of your business” and “you harass me every time you see me.” Campbell admitted to a fellow officer he was just “messing with him.”
For no reason, Campbell had premeditated the fact that he would place Melvin under arrest and kidnap him. To be clear, Melvin had committed no crime. He had harmed no one and was minding his own business when this tyrant cop moved in to falsely arrest him.
Melvin was sitting in the back of the car alone, reflecting on his encounter with Campbell and asked himself a few questions. “Why they gotta abuse us like this down here?…Why do they gotta treat us like this?…This ain’t right man!” He said to himself.
Infuriated, apparently, by someone questioning his authority, the officer then demanded to see his license, telling Melvin he was on government property and a government official was demanding it. That’s when he was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and taken to jail, but the ride was anything but an easy one for the officer who got an earful from the overly frustrated, and some could say, targeted citizen.
After begging Campbell to not arrest him, and telling him he should go after criminals, not guys like him who were trying their best to get by and provide for his family. He then told Campbell his harassment is ongoing and every time they see each other. “I go through so much getting a job as it is now. I can’t have that on my record,” he implored for leniency.
It seems that then Melvin turned his eyes toward heaven and things of faith and addressed the officer’s perceived character flaws. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong that you abuse your power, sir. Yeah. I’m going to go to jail. But God gonna get me out he gonna take care of me. But what you do in the dark is going to come to light. And you know you’ve been bothering me. You know you’s abusing your power. You know you had no business asking me about my license,” he charged.
Indeed, Melvin was correct. Campbell’s deeds did come to light and caught up with the officer in a very real way which ultimately ended the officer’s career.
Melvin wasn’t done. He continued planting seeds into the heart of the hardened officer. He asked, “Is it because I’m Black…because you hate me?”
Returning the mistreatment he’d received from the perpetrator, Melvin said, “Hey, I’m gonna pray for you brother cause you going through some things you don’t even realize. You got some hate in your heart, some negativity. You know what, God orchestrated this, God planned this out. You know what, I’m gonna be on your mind forever.”
Indeed he probably will. Some religious folk might even be tempted to say, in a case such as Melvin’s and Campbell’s, that God is still intervening in the affairs of man because there’s one less crooked cop on the street.
Melvin’s encounter serves as an indictment to modern policing whose street level officers still feel empowered to “toss” cars looking for plants, “stop and frisk” looking for drugs and weapons, and “check window tint” looking to extort people and separate them from their money. It’s tragic but is going on in Every Street, USA, on the daily.