Racial Profiling Has ‘No Place in Our Country’

Police car parked in residential area

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The National Association of REALTORS® is responding with deep concern after a Grand Rapids, Mich.area real estate agent and his buyer clients were handcuffed by police during a showing. 

Real estate pro Eric Brown, who is Black, was showing a home in Wyoming, Mich., last Sunday to client Roy Thorne and Thorne’s 15-year-old son, also both Black, when they noticed police surrounding the house. All three were ordered by police to exit the home with their hands up. They were placed in handcuffs. “[The police] keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs," Thorne said.

Brown told police he was a real estate agent, produced his credentials, and explained he was showing the home to potential buyers. The Wyoming Police Department said officers immediately removed the handcuffs and told the men that neighbors had reported a break-in.

On Friday, in a prepared statement, NAR President Charlie Oppler responded to the incident:

“The detainment of Eric Brown, a REALTOR® from Michigan, and his clients during a recent home showing was deeply disturbing. Brown, his client, and his client’s 15-year-old son, all of whom are Black, had guns drawn upon them by local police and were detained after neighbors reported a break-in at the property. While, thankfully, neither Brown nor his clients were physically harmed in the incident, racial profilingand the humiliation, indignity, and trauma that comes with ithas no place in our country. NAR’s top priority is the safety and well-being of all our members as we work tirelessly each and every day to make the American Dream of owning a home a reality for all.”

Brown told local media that he believes race was a factor in the police officers’ response, which the police have publicly denied. A week earlier, police said there had been a burglary at the same address that resulted in an arrest. A neighbor had contacted police to report that the same suspect had returned.

“The level of response and aggressiveness of the response . . . really threw me back,” Brown told the WOOD TV station. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”

The Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS®, Brown’s local board, said in a statement to members that the vast majority of comments it has fielded about the incident have expressed “support and pride in how Eric handled himself as the whole thing unfolded.

“The GRAR Board of Directors will be discussing Eric's experience at its upcoming meeting to determine what GRAR can or should be doing both in response to this event and in how we can contribute to the healing of the unrest in our communities that these types of situations incite,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, GRAR leadership will be doing its homework to attempt to ascertain the facts so that it does not contribute to the polarizing impact that can potentially result from this type of incident.”

Note: This story, originally published Aug. 5, was updated Aug. 6 when NAR released President Charlie Oppler's statement.