Man detained for fitting suspect’s description offered job with sheriff’s office

Because of his calm demeanor during the stop, captured on bodycam video, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office offered him a job training staff

By Jami Ganz
New York Daily News

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — A Black man detained in error last month for allegedly fitting the description of a burglary suspect has since been offered a job with the Florida sheriff’s office that held him.

Joseph Griffin, a 28-year-old former military police officer, was jogging in the predominantly white neighborhood of Deltona, about 31 miles northeast of Orlando, when the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office detained him on Aug. 27, CNN reported.

Given his calm demeanor during the stop, he was asked to do trainings with the entire VSO staff. The trainings will begin early next month in 20-person groups amid coronavirus, but the young man turned down the offer, noting he works in healthcare.

The suspect that officers were looking for was believed to have stolen a weed eater/leaf blower from a shed at a nearby residence.

An officer approached Griffin saying he wanted to ensure he was not the suspect, as captured on bodycam footage VSO has since released.

“Literally they said, white tank top, black shorts and they said that you had a beard,” the officer explained, adding that he was “not saying it’s you, but it was a Black male — again — not saying it’s you, buddy.”

'I fit a description' story

Statement from Sheriff Mike Chitwood: Today, The West Volusia Beacon published a story with this headline: 'I fit a description': Deltona man detained while jogging I don't know about you, but to me, the implication in the tone of this article is that our deputies did something wrong here. So I want to take a moment to stand up and recognize the great work of every deputy involved in this call. Not only were they respectful to Mr. Griffin - they held his phone for him so he could stay on video on Facebook Live. There's about 18 minutes of video here if you want to see it. Witness descriptions are never perfect, and these deputies did an outstanding job given the limited information they had about a call in progress. AND they arrested the suspect actually responsible for the burglary. Likewise, Mr. Griffin was calm and cooperative even though he had reason to be frustrated with the inconvenience. To each and every deputy who was involved in this response, I am extremely proud of your hard work and dedication. This is exactly the kind of effort that has allowed us to cut down the crime rate in Deltona. To Mr. Griffin, I appreciate your cooperation with these deputies, and I'd like to invite you on a ride-along sometime in the future. To some of the harsher critics who have been second-guessing and criticizing these deputies on social media, I think you need to put yourselves in these deputies' shoes. I don't think just anyone can fill them. Great job, Deltona deputies. Stay safe and keep up the great work. Sheriff Chitwood

Posted by Volusia Sheriff's Office on Thursday, September 3, 2020

Griffin began recording the encounter on Facebook Live, noting his daughter was born just two days prior.

The officer requested Griffin set down his phone and then offered to do so for him.

“For now I’m going to detain you,” he said, according to VSO footage. “But you’re not under arrest — I’m detaining you right now because you fit the description.”

As sirens sounded in the background, a handcuffed Griffin told those watching his feed, “If something happens to me, you all better raise hell.”

The officer added that he too was live and recording the incident.

Griffin was subsequently released and it was determined he’d been detained in error — and the real suspect was arrested.

VSO Sheriff Mike Chitwood appreciated that the man was “going out of his way to be cooperative and respectful,” he wrote on Facebook over the weekend. “Everyone involved in this deserves recognition for a job well done.”

“Mr. Griffin was great with my deputies,” he told CNN after watching the footage, noting his deputies were also “extremely professional.”

He called the deputies and Griffin to thank them all for the way they acted.

“When you get stopped by the police this is how to act. This really is a teachable moment. We can learn from each other,” said Chitwood, who offered Griffin the job.

LISTEN: Police1 recently spoke with Sheriff Mike Chitwood about his agency's approach to de-escalation

©2020 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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