Across the United States in recent years, stories of African American families and individuals having the police called on them by white people for seemingly innocuous events have been prevalently shared on social media.
The list of such incidents is, unfortunately, a long one.
An employee at a bank in Cleveland, Ohio, called police after a black person tried to cash a paycheck. A woman nicknamed “BBQ Betty” became infamous after she called the police because she was upset at a black family for grilling in a park in Oakland, California. And another white woman went viral online after she called the police to do something about an 8-year-old black girl that was selling bottled water on the sidewalk to raise money to go to Disneyland.
That white woman complained that the little girl didn’t have a permit to do so.
Those are just three incidents, but many more examples abound of white people calling the cops on people of color in the U.S. simply because they were living out their lives and doing ordinary things.
— hypervocal (@hypervocal) April 27, 2019
Public shaming of these white individuals online have perhaps prevented other incidents from happening (although more keep popping up, to be sure). But now, a proposed ordinance in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may seek to punish people in a criminal manner if they call the police to respond to complaints based on racist or bigoted reasons.
The proposal is actually part of a larger ordinance that’s aimed at updating the city’s statute on discrimination. Other aspects of the statute would reinforce anti-discrimination rules for people with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community.
But the part of the ordinance making headlines, according to ABC News, deals with people who call the cops to report people for simply doing ordinary things.
The text of the proposal reads that “no person shall knowingly or recklessly report” to police “that an individual who is an actual or perceived member of a protected class…has committed, or may or will commit, a crime, if such report is based in whole or in part on the individual’s membership in a protected class and not on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in consideration of all available facts and the totality of the circumstances.”
Grand Rapids itself witnessed such an incident just a couple of years ago, per reporting from the Washington Post. An African American family had applied for and received permits to hold a high school graduation party in a public park in the city in 2017. Still, someone called the cops on the family event, even though they appeared to be doing nothing wrong.
“The family and most of the people attending that graduation party were African American…was it because of bias? I don’t know,” Patti Caudill, the diversity and inclusion manager for Grand Rapids, recalled.
Grand Rapids will consider the proposal to update their discrimination policies, including punishing those who errantly report families and individuals of color to police for no apparent reason, within the next couple of weeks.