The Beverly Hills Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the arrest of a man who was taken into custody on Aug. 22 during a search for a serial bank robber near Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards.
The man, identified as Charles Belk, matched the description of an alleged accomplice of the bank robbery suspect and was located near the bank a short time after the hold-up, said Sgt. Max Subin, with the Beverly Hills Police Department. Belk, a film and television producer who was coming from a pre-Emmy Awards event in the area at the time, said he was held for six hours until police determined through surveillance camera footage that he was not the accomplice in the robbery.
The police department and the city of Beverly Hills issued a formal public apology to Belk following the incident. Subin said an eyewitness identified Belk as a man who was attempting to distract bank employees during the robbery.
Belk denounced the arrest in a posting on his Facebook page, and claimed that the officers should have acted more quickly to properly identify and release him.
“Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time and denied being told that my car had been impounded … all because I was misidentified as the wrong ‘tall, bald head, black male’ … ‘fitting the description,’” the posting read.
“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description.”
Attempts to contact Belk were unsuccessful. Subin said representatives of the police department have been in contact with Belk to keep him apprised of the internal investigation. The sergeant added that the situation was regrettable, but said that based on his description and the positive identification by a witness, detectives had to thoroughly investigate the matter. He declined to comment further because of the ongoing review, and deferred to a statement issued by Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden.
“We are taking these allegations very seriously,” Snowden said. “We take pride in the professionalism of our department and the high quality service that we provide to those who live, work and visit our community. The arrest of Mr. Belk was lawful and proper based on the information known to the officers in the field at the time of the arrest. However, we should have done a better job once Mr. Belk was taken into custody.”
The Beverly Hills Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit is leading the investigation and will be reviewing all of the allegations related to Belk’s arrest. Investigators will also review policies, procedures and protocols of the processing of arrestees and their access to phone calls and attorneys. Snowden said the investigation will specifically emphasize possible changes to policy regarding the timely review of surveillance camera footage. The investigation may also lead to changes in police officer training to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future.
Subin said he had not heard of any pending litigation stemming from the matter, and it is uncertain how long the internal review will take.
Belk was taken into custody shortly after the arrest of an alleged serial female bank robber who was wanted for 11 robberies in the area since 2012.
The suspect, who was identified as Brianna Clemons Kloutse, 47, was arrested at approximately 5:15 p.m. after she allegedly attempted to rob a Citibank branch in the 8400 block of Wilshire Blvd. Detectives believe Kloutse is a serial bank robber who authorities nicknamed the “purse-packing bandit” because the suspect carried large handbags during the hold-ups. She was taken into custody on La Cienega Boulevard after a brief foot chase, and police recovered a handgun she was carrying.
Subin credited an employee in the bank for realizing a robbery was occurring and notifying police. Officers were patrolling in the area and arrived at the scene as the suspect was fleeing. Subin added that authorities are still searching for the suspect’s alleged accomplice. He is identified as an African American man, but no further information was available.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said Kloutse has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of robbery and attempted robbery. The hold-ups began at a Citibank branch on Santa Monica Boulevard in October 2012, and the robberies all occurred in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Fairfax, Mid-City and Los Feliz districts. Authorities did not release the amount of money the suspect allegedly stole during the robberies. No injuries occurred, but the tellers were traumatized by the incidents, according to police.
The investigation was spearheaded by detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, in conjunction with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and the FBI.
Anyone with further information is asked to contact dets. Benjamin or Marin, with the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, at (213)486-6840.
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