A former Kansas State football player and father of an Oklahoma State player says he was the victim of racial profiling by stadium police at the schools’ game in Manhattan on Nov. 1.
Steve Clark, 55, a former Wichita North football coach and one of two African-American football coaches in City League history, said he was approached by stadium police officers after K-State’s 48-14 victory over Oklahoma State as a suspect in a series of pickpocket robberies at the stadium over the previous two home games. Clark was there with a large group of family and friends to watch his son, Oklahoma State defensive end Trace Clark.
Clark, who played defensive end for K-State from 1977 to 1980 and two seasons for the New England Patriots, filed a complaint with Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office last week after Capt. Oscar Ruiz, K-State’s assistant director and patrol commander of campus police, told Clark police had done nothing wrong.
Schmidt’s office would not comment on the complaint. Clark said Wednesday that the Attorney General’s office had contacted him and a representative would be in Wichita on Dec. 22 to meet with him.
“What I’m hoping comes from this is that it doesn’t happen to someone else,” Clark said. “It’s not that it just shouldn’t happen there, it’s that it shouldn’t happen anywhere.”
Campus police Chief Ronnie Grice said officers handled the situation with Clark appropriately
“He was approached by officers and he says that he was racially profiled, but we’ve looked at it, and the officers were very professional in their conduct with him, and we don’t feel he was racially profiled,” Grice said. “Mr. Clark felt he was singled out, but we were looking for people of interest in burglaries that had occurred in two previous night games.
“Mr. Clark stopped in a particular area we had surveillance on and matched the description. If he had produced his ID, he’d have been on his way.”
After the game, Clark said his group stayed in their seats for 15 to 20 minutes. It was cold and windy that night – the low was 19 degrees – so Clark said he stood behind a wall on the other side of a women’s restroom on the east concourse as his wife, Patty, and daughter, Destiny, went in, and a few feet from where friends and family were congregating.
According to Clark, an officer approached and asked Clark how he was doing and whether he had a minute to talk. The officer asked for identification and Clark said he asked why he needed to see it. The officer responded that if he showed identification, it would clear up the matter.
The officer asked Clark’s birthday, and Clark said he answered. Clark said two more officers approached.
The first officer asked what year Clark was born. Clark said he asked, again, what they wanted to talk about. He said the officer told him that there had been a string of pickpocket robberies in that area of the stadium and Clark met the description of one of the suspects they had seen on video —black, 6-foot and similarily dressed.
Clark is 6-foot-6. Grice said this week that the actual description was for someone 6-2 or 6-3 and in their late 30s or early 40s. Clark said he pointed out to the officers that he was 6-6, not 6-foot, and there were a lot of people wearing Oklahoma State colors that day.
Clark said two more officers approached and identified Clark as a former K-State player and that he was there with his family.
Steve and Patty Clark raised their four children in Manhattan until 2006, when they moved to Wichita.
“At this point, I started to tell one of the guys that had just walked up that (the first officer) thought I was a suspect in a burglary,” Clark said, “and (the first officer) cut me off and goes, ‘I never said you were a suspect,’ and they walked off with the other officers.”
Grice said the officer who first approached Clark initially is not employed by campus police but wouldn’t say where he’s employed.
K-State police supplements its presence in the stadium on game days by hiring police from outside agencies such as the Riley County and Pottawatomie County police departments. There are 45 officers in the stadium on game days.
“It was just bizarre to see,” Patty Clark said. “Steve is the friendliest guy, I don’t think at first any of us understood what was going on, then it was like, ‘Whoa, they’re questioning him for something,’ and that’s when we became pretty concerned.”
Clark said he e-mailed Grice on Nov. 3 about the incident, then heard back from him on Nov. 14. Grice said he would have Ruiz call Clark back. Ruiz called and said after investigating, he had determined that stadium police acted appropriately.
No arrests have been made.
Clark said he e-mailed K-State president Kirk Schulz, who replied on Nov. 17 via e-mail.
“My sincere apologies for how you and your family were treated,” Schulz wrote. “We want everyone who comes to K-State to have a positive experience – and your time following the game was anything but positive.”
Clark said Schulz’s chief of staff, Jackie Hartman, remained in contact with the Clarks until Nov. 24, when Schulz followed up with a letter that reiterated what the e-mail had said, calling it an “unfortunate incident.”
Clark said he mailed the Attorney General’s office a Complaint/Allegation of Racial or other Biased Based Policing on Dec. 10.