Two tiburon police officers resign over racial profiling allegations


(Courtesy of Yema Khalif)

By Jake Cohen

Two Tiburon police officials, Sergeant Michael Blasi and Police Chief Michael Cronin resigned September 1 and 13 following allegations of officers racially profiling a Black store owner in Tiburon. On August 21, a recording of three officers, including Blasi, went viral on Instagram where they can be heard questioning Yema Khalif, the owner of YEMA, which is the only Black-owned clothing store in Tiburon. 

The video, which has amassed nearly 64,000 views on YEMA’s Instagram page, sparked public outrage prompting a protest in Tiburon attended by over 200 people in support of Khalif and the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest, which featured a diverse array of Black speakers in the community, including Marin residents Paul Austin and Amber Allen-Peirson, called for police reformation, community reparations, and institutionalized changes to prevent further racial profiling. 

“It’s nice to see how the community has come together, and that they are saying what they want to see … going forward,” Khalif said. 

In response to public outcry, Blasi offered his resignation from the Tiburon Police department, which went into effect September 1. Tiburon Town Manager Greg Chanis announced the resignation in a newsletter saying “[Sgt. Blasi] believes it would be difficult to continue being effective as a police officer in Tiburon. Based on this belief, Sgt. Blasi offered, and the town has accepted, his voluntary resignation.” 

Tiburon chief Cronin also resigned effective September 13, in response to the alleged racial profiling incident at YEMA. Cronin faced backlash in June following a press release that warned residents of Sausalito and Tiburon that they might be targets of unrest caused by a Marin City demonstration in protest of the murder of George Floyd, which remained peaceful. 

On the night of the alleged racial profiling incident, Khalif, his wife, and a business friend, all of whom are Black, were at their store late at night counting inventory, according to a post on YEMA’s Instagram account. In the post, Khalif described seeing a lone police officer circle the block a number of times before stopping his patrol vehicle and knocking on the storefront door. 

 In the video, Khalif can be seen wearing a protective mask and engaging with the initially maskless police supervisor, identified as Michael Blasi, who repeatedly asked Khalif to prove his identity as the owner of the store. It is unclear whether or not the police received a 911 call that prompted their presence at YEMA late that night. Before Khalif was able to show the three officers that he had a working key to the store, an unnamed local can be heard from afar verifying that Khalif was the owner. The officers immediately left the store. 

Khalif believes the best way Marin residents can express their solidarity is by not being bystanders to racist acts. “I think right now everybody should get involved just because, what’s going on in the country; the climate and everything. You know, this is not something that is good for the community when this happens, so when everybody has a voice, everybody gets involved, when everybody speaks up when they see any kind of an injustice happening … not being bystanders makes the community better,” Khalif said.

Footage of the incident on August 21st can be seen on YEMA’s Instagram (@Yemacalif)

Yema Protest Speech following the incident at his storefront on August 29th.