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Police Acknowledge 'Breakdowns' in Arrest

Beverly Hills police acknowledged Thursday there were procedural "breakdowns" in last week's arrest of a Hollywood producer who was mistaken for a bank robber and held for six hours.

Police stopped producer and filmmaker Charles Belk, 51, about 6 p.m. Aug. 22 on suspicion of being involved in a bank robbery that occurred just moments earlier less than two blocks away. Police said Belk's clothes matched those of a suspect in the robbery, as did his "physical characteristics."

But Belk countered that he fit the physical description only in that he is a tall, bald black man. He posted a photo on Facebook of himself handcuffed on the sidewalk and has criticized the department on social media and in radio and TV interviews for how it handled the detention.

"We can always improve," said Beverly Hills police Sgt. Max Subin. "We're receptive to some of the issues that have been raised."

Police Chief David Snowden acknowledged that the six-hour process failed Belk, who maintained his innocence throughout.

Belk was in the area for a pre-Emmys party and was headed to his car to refill a parking meter when police stopped him, he said in a Facebook post. Officers took him into custody after a witness from the bank positively identified him as one of the robbers, police said.

Belk wrote on Facebook that he wasn't read his Miranda rights and was delayed in speaking to a lawyer. It was not until authorities reviewed the bank's video footage that they determined Belk was not involved, he said.

Snowden said in a statement that there were "breakdowns in our handling of this matter."

"We are taking these allegations very seriously," he said.

The department is reviewing how it can more quickly review video and other electronic devices that can exonerate an innocent person like Belk, and how to provide "prompt" access to a phone and a lawyer.

"I have always stayed as far away from being on the wrong side of the law as much as possible; so please, be careful," Belk wrote on Facebook after the incident. "If something like this can happen to ME, it can certainly happen to ANYONE!"

The Police Department's professional standards unit also is reviewing how the officers handled the arrest.

Police took Brianna Clemons Kloutse into custody the same day of Belk's arrest in connection with the robbery.

Belk and his attorney did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Copyright 2014 - Los Angeles Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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