Dr. Armen Henderson was handcuffed by a police officer who thought he was littering. He wants the police to stop "acting like it’s business as usual even though it’s a pandemic."
In the United States, testing for the Coronavirus isn't anywhere near where the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. While most people only have mild symptoms and can recover at home, therefore suggesting they do not need to be tested, it is still important for our federal and state governments to practice aggressive testing during the ongoing pandemic. Some of the country's most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, immunocompromised, and the homeless, should be tested. The government, unfortunately, has failed to meet this goal. Therefore, when Dr. Armen Henderson from Miami was testing and helping the homeless in downtown Miami for free, he should have been praised, not unfairly arrested. Though the Miami Police Department (MPD) has claimed no arrest was made, a video of the doctor in handcuffs has prompted an investigation into the incident, The New York Times reports.
Racial profiling doesn’t take a day off https://t.co/tQRqwxYY6k— Black Enterprise (@blackenterprise) April 15, 2020
Dr. Henderson, 34, was loading tents into his van so he could take them to homeless people in downtown Miami around 11:30 a.m. on Friday outside his home in Flagami, a neighborhood near the Miami International Airport. This is when he was approached by an unnamed officer of the MPD. The officer, who did not have a mask on to maintain safety and hygiene, asked the doctor if he lived in the area and was littering. Reportedly, the police had received several complaints about the illegal dumping of trash on the streets from residents. After Dr. Henderson said he was not littering, he returned to the task at hand. The police officer, however, was not done.
A Meharry alum, Dr. Armen Henderson, was arrested for doing what Meharrians do, protecting the lives of poor folks from COVID19. It seems we have to fight for dignity while fighting a virus :Police Handcuff Black Doctor Who Tests Homeless for Coronavirus https://t.co/e9UnrvxdxQ— James E.K. Hildreth (@JamesEKHildreth) April 14, 2020
The officer asked Dr. Henderson for ID, which he did not have on him at the time. He said he would have to retrieve it from his home. As he turned around to resume his task, the officer handcuffed him. "I did not know I was under arrest," he stated. "[I felt] kind of angry. We see how these things kind of escalate, and all those things are going through my head. He was yelling and, to me, it wasn’t worth it." The doctor was also worried about his own health as he could feel the officer's spit on his face. Eventually, Dr. Henderson called for his wife who came outside and handed the officer his ID. He was then released.
Now, the doctor wants people to know "that it was wrong, that it was racial profiling, that the police are still acting like it’s business as usual even though it’s a pandemic." While MPD Chief Jorge Colina affirmed in a video statement released on Saturday that his department does not condone racial profiling, an investigation has been launched into the matter. When asked for an incident report, MPD public information officer Orlando Rodriguez declined to release one. He cited a "continuing internal affairs investigation." At present, there are 21,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and almost 500 deaths as a result of the novel virus. While the wealthy can stay at home, get tested, or receive medical care, the homeless do not have those privileges. With this in mind, we should not be making it more difficult for frontline health workers (especially those of color who are more at-risk like Dr. Henderson) who just want the best for their community's public health.