VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Volusia County man was stopped by deputies in August because they thought he was a suspect they were looking for. Now, he’s helping to train deputies.
Joseph Griffin was jogging down North Normandy Boulevard in Deltona when he was stopped by deputies who were searching for a man who stole lawn equipment. Deputies said he matched the description of the suspect.
“He got out of the car and he put his hands up and said ‘Hey I don’t want to alarm you but there was an incident and you kind of fit the description,’” he said.
Griffin, a former military police officer, said he knew to stay calm and cooperate. He pulled out his phone, though, and started a Facebook Live.
“It just helped me feel more safe that my friends and family were at least watching so if anything happened they could do the right steps,” he said.
Griffin was put in handcuffs while deputies ran a background check.
“People were driving past me and at the time I was a nurse, a manager, in the ICE so I had a reputation,” he said.
Deputies let him go.
When Sheriff Mike Chitwood heard about the incident though he wanted to use it as a moment to teach his deputies. Chitwood brought Griffin into training programs on implicit bias and using empathy.
“They may not agree with why they’re being stopped but at least there’s some kind of understanding dialogue there where you’re explaining or take the opportunity to explain it i think most people feel better,” said Chitwood.
The sheriff said it’s impossible not to stop people based on looks when they’re looking for a suspect and see someone matching a description.
“That first bit of information is all you really have to prevent a crime and in Mr. Griffin’s case, he fit a description,” Chitwood said.
The sheriff said they’ll be using that training in the future, too, with all recruit classes.
“It’s our job to try to bridge that and say listen every encounter isn’t a deadly encounter. Most end peacefully,” Chitwood said.
Griffin said he hopes both law enforcement and civilians learn from his story.
“Cops want to get home to their family just like we want to get home to our family,” he said.