"'Hey sir, I wanted to call and let you know I am an inspector just in case a citizen calls and says some strange Black man is walking around," he said.
Calvin Mathews, a state health inspector for the Minnesota Department of Health, made a non-emergency call to the police on May 27. It had been two days since George Floyd was brutally killed in police custody and Mathews was to inspect a mobile home park, he told Good Morning America. "I said, 'Hey sir, I wanted to call and let you know I am an inspector just in case a citizen calls and says some strange Black man is walking around," he recalled. "He said, 'I'm sorry you even feel the need to tell me this.'"
Mathews' call was answered by 39-year-old Sgt. Justin Pletcher of the Columbia Heights Police Department. He said, 'I'm a big black guy with dreads' and he didn't want it to become an issue," Pletcher explained. "I said, 'Hey man, I get it. It won't become an issue, but if someone calls, I'll squash it.'" The two men met in the small city of Hilltop after Mathews requested that the officer come and check his credentials as a preemptive measure for the possibility that someone might call the cops on him. This was when Pletcher saw an Omega Psi Phi bracelet on Mathews' wrist and realized that he belonged to the same Black fraternity as his college roommate.
The two men then spent an hour walking the neighborhood together, unaware that it would be the beginning of a special friendship. "If you look like me and you run into police, you don't know who you're going to get," Mathews said. "He agreed to walk around with me during my inspection and we talked." Mathews and Pletcher soon realized that they had a lot in common. "We like to travel and we both love [musical artist] Prince," Pletcher explained. "[We] both have biracial children."
The duo took a picture together to mark their meeting and shared it on Facebook along with a story of their meeting. The post quickly went viral and has garnered over 241k likes in the time since. Speaking of the unexpected viral moment, Mathews said, " I honestly think people need to see there's some type of hope out there. The fact is, none of my other coworkers would've thought, 'let me call the police,' and that's the definition of privilege. I'm 49 years old. I have dreads. I've never smoked. I've been to prison 22 times but to inspect, not as an occupant. I think it all comes down to fear. People are afraid of something they saw on TV. It's just ridiculous."
Like countless others calling for police reform in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, Mathews explained that he hoped to see some real change. "Several officers I know said nowhere in the book of training did it say to put their knee on that man's neck," he said. "Maybe there needs to be a time limit [for police working] on and off the streets. Maybe there should be mandated counseling. There's tons of good officers. Something needs to happen with these bad officers."
"I'm not angry about the rioting, I'm angry that's what had to be resorted to until people listened," said Pletcher. "I'm angry about systematic racism, I'm angry about inequality. It won't change unless we do something and that's policing. The thin blue line, the very idea of a line suggests segregation and if I'm not on the same side of my community, I'm failing them, I'm failing this badge -- any officer that disagrees with me needs to think about doing something else."