‘Banking while Black’: Bank CEO apologises after video shows Black man in handcuffs for trying to cash his own paycheck

‘I am deeply sorry for where we failed and accept full responsibility,’ bank’s president says

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 13 December 2021 19:07
Black man arrested for trying to cash his own pay check

In a blatant incident of racial profiling, a Black man was handcuffed and escorted out of a bank for alleged fraud when he tried to cash his $900 paycheque in Minnesota.

Bodycam footage obtained by local news station KTSP showed that Joe Morrow, 23, was threatened arrest at a US Bank branch in Columbia Heights last year, though he had an account with the bank and had showed identification.

Bank manager John Askwith allegedly told the police that Mr Morrow had a fake cheque despite already verifying with his employer that it was real. Mr Morrow used to work at a grocery distributor in Hopkins.

According to Mr Morrow, the manager walked over to him and said: “Joe Morrow? Your cheque [is] fake... you people always coming in here with fake cheques.” He then called the police because he had received “a lot of fraudulent cheques”.

Mr Morrow told the manager that he worked at the place that had issued the cheque. “I work there, bro. And I’m going to report you too, bro. This is racial,” Mr Morrow told the manager.

Responding to him, Sergeant Justin Pletcher said: “Joe, I need you to calm down, first of all, OK? Don't say anything stupid because you're just going to get arrested for it.”

Soon, another police officer arrived and the manager asked them to take Mr Morrow to another office. He was then handcuffed and quickly stood up from his chair.

“I didn't threaten him. I got up, like, I’m mad,” Mr Morrow said. “The guy told the officer, ‘can you get him out of my office? He might take something on my desk.’ That’s when I got super mad. I’m going to touch something on your desk?”

However, in the incident report, Sgt Pletcher wrote that Mr Morrow “flexed at John in a threatening manner”, which he disputed.

“They were all looking at me and just staring at me. And then looking at the cheque and then staring at me again, and I already know they’re thinking that the cheque [is] fake,” Mr Morrow said.

He added that he had offered more evidence to prove his cheque was real. “I got the check stub and it’ll say what day it started and all that and how many hours I worked… I could’ve come in here and showed them that,” he told the police.

Rich Hechter, Mr Morrow's attorney, asked the US Bank for a settlement and an explanation, to which the bank has reportedly agreed.

On Friday, president and chief executive officer of US Bancorp Andy Cecere issued an apology to the Minneapolis community.

“I am deeply sorry for where we failed and accept full responsibility,” he said.

“What Mr Morrow experienced is not the experience any customer should have. All of our employees, including executive management, are required to complete two levels of unconscious bias training, in addition to other training to prevent bias and negative customer experiences. Sometimes, unfortunately, we don't live up to our goals,” he added.

Mr Morrow’s experience has added to that of many other Black Americans who have been documenting such instances under the social media hashtag “Banking while Black”.

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