A Bel Air, Maryland, police officer asked a woman who was taking a walk her immigration status.
“I didn’t expect this to happen in Bel Air," Bel Air resident Aravinda Pillalamarri told WJZ. "Walking while brown? He said, ‘No, no, no, nothing like that.'"
A resident reportedly called the police on Pillalamarri, claiming she looked suspicious.
“I had just come out for a walk, so I didn’t have my ID," Pillalamarri recalled. "And he said, 'Why don’t you have ID? Are you here illegally?'"
Charles Moore, the Bel Air police chief, said that while asking her nationality is insensitive, it is not racial profiling.
“They were trying to figure out why there was some hesitation to provide identification, that’s why he asked if she was illegal,” he said.
Pillalamarri is a U.S. citizen, and not an undocumented immigrant.
But President Donald Trump's immigration executive order, which states that undocumented immigrants are a threat to national security and public safety, allows for the detainment of an individual and their deportation if they are suspected as being in the country illegally, according to a White House press release obtained by CNN.
“People are uncertain, we don’t know what to expect,” Dr. Zainab Choudry with the Council on American-Islamic Relations told WJZ of Pillalamarri's encounter with Bel Air police. "So this is really ... a reflection of that uncertainty that people are feeling."
Moore and Pillalamarri believe the incident can bring about change.
"That's an education for me, that's helped me out to see that, not only do I have to get my officers trained, I have to get the dispatchers trained on how to react to a situation like that in the future," Moore said.
"Social justice starts locally, and I'm really proud that Bel Air is rising to that challenge," Pillalamari said.
Bel Air is developing a citizen's advisory board that will discuss issues similar to Pillalamari's, and Moore will look into strengthening his department's policies.