A July 23 traffic stop conducted by Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office deputies involving a Black man has led to calls for the department to investigate the incident, terminate the deputies and pay for damages.
The Loudoun NAACP held a press conference Friday morning outside the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Leesburg to highlight an incident of alleged racial profiling, in which a Black driver was pulled over for a defective rear brake light and was detained while his car was searched for drugs. The organization is demanding the Sheriff’s Office investigate the traffic stop, fire the five deputies involved, and pay for damages to the man’s car. It also wants the county to form a citizens’ review board help ensure similar cases don’t happen in the future.
That July 23 traffic stop saw five Sheriff’s deputies detain Kaheem Arkim Smith after initially pulling him over along Rt. 7 for a defective rear brake light. Smith on Friday said deputies told him to step out of his car after he reached for his registration. He said there were eventually five deputies on the scene. He was handcuffed and deputies began to search his car after a police dog allegedly indicated the presence of drugs in the car.
Smith said he did not consent to a search and that the deputies tore his back seat apart and left it that way. Smith said the deputies told him he could not film the interaction—although filming law enforcement officers in public is legal, and he was able to film a portion of it.
He filed a formal complaint with the Sheriff’s Office on Thursday.
“This should not be happening in these times,” he said.
According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office, the deputies found nothing of consequence and issued Smith a warning for an improper brake light. The department noted that the traffic stop was conducted as part of an ongoing investigation and stated information on the incident it would release is limited.
The statement read that all complaints are investigated “to the fullest extent and all disciplinary measures are vettedoutsideof the LCSO by the Loudoun County Government Human Resources Department and the County Attorney’s Office.”
According to a July 23 Facebook post by Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas, the NAACP demands “the immediate investigation and termination of all LCSO deputies involved in the racial profiling and harassment of Mr. Smith” and “the immediate formation of a LCSO citizens review board with subpoena power.”
Thomas on Friday asked Sheriff Mike Chapman to release the deputies’ body camera and dash camera footage and audio and demanded that the Sheriff’s Office immediately pay for the damage done to Smith’s car.
“Come and pick it up,” she said. “You will not get away with this.”
Thomas said the Loudoun NAACP demands justice and accountability, following recent public affirmation from the Board of Supervisors—specifically Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin)—that there is no systemic racism in the Sheriff’s Office.
“I come to say foul,” she said, noting that Smith was “accused and assailed” by the deputies.
Thomas said the Sheriff’s Office told her that deputies would not engage in “frivolous” traffic stops during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. She said the deputies exerted a “power play” by taking Smith’s wallet while he was being detained and that “the intimidation factor is real.”
“This is not acceptable in Loudoun County,” she said.
Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell said that if the Sheriff’s Office conducts an internal investigation of the incident, it should release an external report.