The Phoenix Police Department has opened an internal investigation into the detainment of a Wall Street Journal reporter who was conducting interviews outside a Chase Bank in November.
The reporter, Dion Rabouin, who is Black, was reporting outside the bank when he was handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle, The Wall Street Journal said in a statement.
Mr. Rabouin’s detainment occurred on Nov. 23 but gained widespread attention after the television station ABC15 reported on the episode on Wednesday.
Footage taken by a bystander shows Mr. Rabouin being handcuffed and sitting inside a police vehicle. An officer can be heard telling him, “I’m not giving you any more chances.” Mr. Rabouin is heard responding, “You’re not giving me any chances for what? I haven’t done anything wrong.”
In a statement, the Police Department said that it had opened an “administrative investigation” after receiving a letter from the editor in chief of The Journal, which, the police said, expressed concerns about the “interaction” between Mr. Rabouin and one of their officers.
“Bank personnel contacted police after they received customer complaints that a man was approaching people as they entered the bank asking them personal questions,” the department said. It added that the interaction between Mr. Rabouin and the police officer took place on private property.
Once the investigation is complete, it will be made public, the department said. Mr. Rabouin was not charged.
According to a police report posted by ABC15, a Chase Bank employee notified the authorities of a “suspicious person outside the bank” who had identified himself as a reporter and was refusing to leave.
The officer, Caleb Zimmerman, said in the report that he had spoken with bank staff members, who said that they had informed Mr. Rabouin that he was making customers uncomfortable. Officer Zimmerman said that he had concluded that Mr. Rabouin was trespassing.
“He stated he had his I.D. on him, but refused to produce it,” according to the report. “At that time, I told Dion to turn around and put his hands behind his back, which he did not do.”
The incident comes amid a sweeping federal investigation into the conduct of the Phoenix Police Department and whether it engaged in discriminatory and abusive practices and used excessive force.
The Journal said it was “deeply concerned” at the treatment of Mr. Rabouin, who is based in New York and covers finance.
“We have asked the Phoenix Police Department to pursue a thorough investigation into the incident and explain why their officers needlessly escalated the situation and took these aggressive steps,” The Journal said in a statement. “No journalist should ever be detained simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Mr. Rabouin did not immediately respond to requests for an interview on Sunday but has acknowledged the incident on Twitter.
“Things really escalated quickly,” Mr. Rabouin said in an interview with ABC15.
He said that he had been in Phoenix spending time with family when he went to the bank to interview people and that he intentionally did not “dress up” — he wore shorts and a T-shirt — because he did not want bank customers to believe he was trying to sell them something.
He told the television station that he was working on a story and that he was looking for real people, not experts and economists. He did not identify the nature of the story.
He said that he had been standing on the sidewalk next to the building when bank employees came outside to ask what he was doing. Mr. Rabouin told ABC15 that he had identified himself as a journalist and that no one had asked him to leave.
Shortly after, Mr. Rabouin said, a police officer showed up. He said that he had offered to leave but that the officer grabbed him and told him, “This can get bad for you if you don’t comply.”
Maura Cordova, a spokeswoman for Chase Bank, would not comment further on the details surrounding Mr. Rabouin’s detainment.
“We apologize to Mr. Rabouin,” she said on Sunday. “I have nothing else to add.”
According to the letter sent by The Journal’s editor in chief, Matt Murray, Mr. Rabouin had been interviewing passers-by on a public sidewalk outside the bank when he was approached by an officer, who told Mr. Rabouin that he was trespassing.
“At no point until then had Mr. Rabouin been asked to leave the sidewalk outside the bank by Chase personnel or anyone else,” Mr. Murray said, adding that Mr. Rabouin had a “clear right” to be present on the sidewalk while reporting.
He said that Mr. Rabouin offered to leave but was then handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle. Footage showed that Mr. Rabouin kept “a calm and professional demeanor throughout the episode,” Mr. Murray said.
“I am relieved that Mr. Rabouin’s interaction with Phoenix police officers ended peacefully,” Mr. Murray added. “But I am appalled and concerned that officers at your department would attempt to interfere with Mr. Rabouin’s constitutional right to engage in journalism and purport to limit anyone’s presence in a public location. Such conduct is offensive to civil liberties.”