It was on August 7th, 2019 that Rob Mathis, a U.S. Army veteran who was born and raised in Detroit took to Facebook a chilling experience he and his family had in the home of Muskegon officer Charles Anderson. Rob Mathis
posted on Facebook that he and his wife saw Confederate flags in the house and garage, and a framed “Application for citizenship” to the Ku Klux Klan on a wall in a bedroom.
Mathis posted a picture of the framed KKK document for the public to see and the Muskegon police officer has since been placed on administrative leave while the city investigates the allegation that his home contains racist memorabilia. While some Muskegon residents were outraged at what seemed to be a display of blatant racism, others simply called the KKK “Application for citizenship” a collector’s item. No matter the viewpoint, this local incident that caught national attention peaked the public’s interest in finding out who the man behind the badge really is.
Officer Charles Anderson’s framed “Application for citizenship” to the Ku Klux Klan raised the question of his personal feelings towards black people for many and caused others to recount past encounters officer Anderson’s had with black people. Rob Mathis’ experience was publicly addressed approaching the tenth-year anniversary of officer Charles Anderson being cleared of fatally shooting Julius Johnson, a 23-year-old black man, on September 23rd, 2009 who fled on foot with Anderson in pursuit after a traffic stop.
While it’s easy for some to write-off discrimination as people being “too sensitive”, it’s not as easy to ignore numbers. Officer Charles Anderson’s arrest records show major discrepancies in how often he arrests black people in comparison to white people. Over the last two years, officer Charles Anderson’s arrest records show that he has arrested 217 black people almost doubling the 120 arrests of white people. More specifically, Anderson arrested 143 black males and only arrested 79 white males while arresting 74 black females and only 41 white females. In fact, there was a four-month span starting on December 16th, 2016 until April 10th, 2017 that Charles Anderson arrested black people only – 14 black males and 3 black females.
Unfortunately, black people being more likely to get arrested than whites is not a foreign concept here in Muskegon, MI. Muskegon patrol officer Scott Zonnebelt joins KKK memorabilia owner Officer Anderson in arresting black people at disproportionate rates. In the year of 2018 alone, arrest records show officer S. Zonnebelt arrested and gave citations to 188 black people while only arresting or giving citations to 87 whites. Officer S. Zonnebelt was the officer that reportedly gave a young black male a ticket for an “unregistered” bike and was disciplined for “inappropriately using his firearm in violation of department policy” in February of 2008 after firing his weapon at a vehicle as it started to flee from a traffic stop on East Laketon Avenue and U.S. 31 – an incident for which he was not fired.
Whether or not the public unanimously agrees that officers like Charles Anderson and Scott Zonnebelt need to be fired and never allowed to police a community again, their likelihood to be “tougher on crime” when it comes to black civilians directly infringes on the trust that communities are entitled to have with local law enforcement.
According to the 2010 Census, Blacks make up 34.5% of the city population while whites make up 57% of the population.