Dear white [people],
May 10, 2018 1:58 PM   Subscribe

From one white woman to another: [Feministe]Please stop calling the cops on people of color. Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your coffee shop and you don’t want them there. Do not call the cops on them because they’re on your golf course and you don’t want them there. Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your store and you don’t want them there. Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your gym and you don’t want them there. Do not call the cops on them because they’re shy. Do not call the cops on them because they didn’t wave back at you when you waved at them.”
• Black people account for 28 percent of arrests in the U.S., despite being just 13 percent of the population.
• They’re the victims of 31 percent of police killings in the U.S.
• They represent 47 percent of people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.
• Black men and women literally age faster when they’re forced to interact with racial discrimination on a regular basis.
“The police aren’t your personal security guards. They aren’t there to get people to leave, or to get them to settle down and behave, or to scare them straight. They aren’t there to check up on people you find scary on account of them being extremely tan. They aren’t there to indulge your racist wiggins. The police are there to arrest people. [...] Maybe they’ll sit in jail until they lose their job. Maybe they’ll end up wrongfully convicted of a crime. Maybe they’ll end up dead.”
posted by Fizz (239 comments total) 136 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do not call the cops on them because they're having a cookout in the public park.
posted by rewil at 2:01 PM on May 10 [44 favorites]


Do not call the cops on them if they are napping on campus in their dorm room.
posted by Fizz at 2:03 PM on May 10 [51 favorites]


I was once accosted by the police while hiking along a road because someone saw me standing on the side of the road drinking from my water bottle and thought that was worth calling the police over.

I am white, and I can't help but wonder how that encounter could have gone differently if I were not.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:04 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


The police aren’t your personal security guards. They aren’t there to get people to leave, or to get them to settle down and behave, or to scare them straight. They aren’t there to check up on people you find scary on account of them being extremely tan. They aren’t there to indulge your racist wiggins.

Seriously. This. I mean, the cops got more than enough racist wiggins to indulge. They sure as hell don't need any extra.
posted by teleri025 at 2:07 PM on May 10 [34 favorites]


I promise to not call the cops, period. Seems like asking for trouble regardless of scenario.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:13 PM on May 10 [32 favorites]


Do not call the cops on them if they are napping on campus in their dorm room.

A saw a tweet about this from a Yale Law School alum who pointed out (in a fairly casual way, even!) that she didn't know a single Black Yale Law School alum who hadn't had an experience like this. Which was just shocking to me (and I realize how much that shows my own white privilege).

There's also something going on here that is very much at the intersection of white supremacy and the patriarchy. There's a certain helplessness white women are often taught from a very young age, and a certain level of fear that is very racialized.

These days I pretty much just don't call the cops at all. Which really sucks because I'm always worried there's going to be something that happens where no one calls the cops and someone is badly hurt because of it (I live in a neighborhood with some gang activity and gun violence, especially in the summer). But I don't want someone getting hurt because I called the cops either! But then, the evidence shows other white people in my neighborhood don't have the same issues with calling the cops, so.
posted by lunasol at 2:18 PM on May 10 [24 favorites]


I promise to not call the cops, period. Seems like asking for trouble regardless of scenario.

FFS! I think it's pretty obvious that this is not speaking to actual emergencies/crimes where an officer of the law would be called upon.

The discussion we need to be having and the behaviour that people need to start engaging in is centered around not calling the police for bullshit racism/profiling/stereotyping. To not feel threatened just because a brown/black person exists and is in front of you.
posted by Fizz at 2:18 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


> Do not call the cops on them if they are napping on campus in their dorm room.

She was napping in a common room, but whatever: when I think about all the not-my-or-someone-else's-room places I napped in college, well, it was a lot of places. So many places. Libraries, the Green, the couches in the no-longer-exists Weirdo Corner in the hippie cafe, the cemetery behind the dining hall, any number of classrooms (during class), under the desk in the computer center when my personal machine was busted and I basically moved in during finals, the administration building, the alumni center....

The only time I have called the cops in recent years is when I have witnessed actual acts of violence, or to report sounds of same (gunshots followed by screeching tires).
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on May 10 [24 favorites]


One morning grumpybearbride and I were awoken around 3:30AM to the sound of one dude laying into another dude over some apparently major failure to deliver on a promise. Both men were Black. The angry dude was, like, level 11 angry, and the guy on the receiving end just kept saying "sorry" which made the angry dude even more angry. It made me nervous because it sounded like it might have progressed to violence. Then, suddenly, an older white woman screams out of her window "I'M GOING TO CALL THE COPS!" and it was like you could hear a switch flip in angry dude's head. You could hear his shoulders droop, his head turn to the woman with an exasperated "really, lady?" expression. And I felt for the guy, because that woman potentially introduced lethal force into the equation when up to that point all it had been was yelling at an unreasonable volume. He continued berating his compatriot in a lower voice for a few minutes and then they were quiet.

I'm glad the cops didn't come.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:29 PM on May 10 [45 favorites]


I think that there's a power law thing with many of these overtly racist cop calls - I suspect that as with the Yale woman and the Starbucks manager, many of the callers are repeat callers, and I suspect that if we knew all, we'd find that they have some connections to overt white supremacy. It seems very clear at this point that there is a significant minority of white people who are actively looking for opportunities to harm Black people (and indigenous people and POC) and get away with it - that is, they're not thinking "oh, someone is sleeping in the lounge, perhaps they are not a student but instead a criminal!" or even "ha, rule-breaker, see what you get" but "here is a chance to give a Black person a hard time".

It has seemed likely to me for many years that a lot of the killer cops have white supremacist ties, too, and that the opportunity to murder people of color is part of what draws them to the police force. Again, I think that if we had all the information, we'd find that a lot of these cops have social ties to neo-Nazi groups.

My point isn't #notallwhitepeople but rather "this isn't a cultural problem or a problem of fear or ignorance or implicit bias, it's a problem of nazis, and we have to fight it like a problem of nazis". There are plenty of cultural problems and problems of implicit bias, and white people are all implicated in and benefit from white supremacy, but these particular overt racist cop-callers need to be fired, expelled and/or prosecuted, not treated as victims of social conditioning who need education and policy nudges.
posted by Frowner at 2:32 PM on May 10 [103 favorites]


For folks who have something legit to report (verified domestic abuse for example) but would prefer not to feed into the carceral system by calling the cops: What To Do Instead of Calling the Police
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:33 PM on May 10 [35 favorites]


this is trivial, but ...

the power company has a drop off box for bills a few blocks from where i live - to get to the drop off box you've got to drive about 150-200 feet into a driveway and take the one way drive to the box

so, obviously, i could see everything in the parking lot going on - there were two cars near the box - in one, a black guy is sitting, in another a black woman is leaning into the front passenger chatting with other black people in the car

ok, they ran into each other and decided to talk

further on near the entrance is a pickup truck with a white woman in it staring ahead of her - i wasn't sure what to make of that, but i pulled into the driveway, drove past her to the box and went to drop off my bill with the car still running - i went back to my car and drove off with everything as it was

as i left i saw the woman finally move forward and go to the box and realized that she had been AFRAID to do that until someone else demonstrated that you could do that and not get messed with by those black people hanging around

that just seemed really blatant to me
posted by pyramid termite at 2:37 PM on May 10 [34 favorites]


I can't find it any more, but I read a tweet once that said that "White people treat the police like customer service."
posted by JDHarper at 2:39 PM on May 10 [81 favorites]




Because I relate experiences of others to my own, the dorm common room story reminded me of 30 years ago when I got campus security called on me while wandering around the dorm I lived in (called in by the resident pothead, oddly). They showed up, I showed them my student ID, all was well, pothead apologized to me later.

So much like the Yale story, but so utterly different as well. I'm a white male, and if everything had gone incredibly wrong...I might have been taken to the campus security station. In the Yale case, the upper bound for disaster was higher than I like to contemplate.

I've occasionally broken out my story as one of those funny little anecdotes ("I was such an introvert that the guy three doors down didn't recognize me and called the cops on me!"), but now I'm not finding it so funny any more.
posted by Four Ds at 2:40 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


I legit have refrained from calling cops during emergencies and crimes, because there's no way those dudes could make the situation any better. I would rather just get robbed than to get robbed AND have to deal with cops.

As a kid, my dad told me to not even ask a cop for directions if I was lost in a strange city because, quote, 'they're always looking for ways to fuck with you.'

I have negotiated at length with 911 dispatchers to send ONLY paramedics and NO COPS to a friend's mental health crisis. It took more effort than it ever, ever should have, and who decided that cops are ever an appropriate mental health first responder? Said friend was terrified that he'd have an episode away from home and end up dead or in jail because cops are always sent for mentally ill people in crisis.

I'm a white lady, well-educated, reasonably good at approximating middle class trappings. White people with this level of entitlement to policing are aware of and only too happy to take their turn wielding the state monopoly on violence.
posted by palindromic at 2:42 PM on May 10 [56 favorites]


Just don't call the police on a black person unless you could morally justify someone being shot.
posted by jaduncan at 2:42 PM on May 10 [24 favorites]


It seems very clear at this point that there is a significant minority of white people who are actively looking for opportunities to harm Black people (and indigenous people and POC) and get away with it - that is, they're not thinking "oh, someone is sleeping in the lounge, perhaps they are not a student but instead a criminal!" or even "ha, rule-breaker, see what you get" but "here is a chance to give a Black person a hard time".

If you wanna be a peak woke white lady (I convict myself), you can start using your immense white privilege to observe and document police interactions with black people. I make it a point to watch quietly but obviously if the police are around. You are still wielding the overwhelming power of silence and white supremacy, just... hopefully for safety and the common welfare.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:46 PM on May 10 [40 favorites]


also farming while black

"It isn't Richard Spencer calling the cops on me for farming while Black. It's nervous White women in yoga pants with "I'm with Her" and "Coexist" stickers on their German SUVs."
posted by danjo at 2:47 PM on May 10 [37 favorites]


I appreciate your link, Sheydem-tants. A while ago. I woke up at 4 am or so because a man outside my window was calling, “help, help, help” over and over. I decided I needed to take a look at him, to see his skin color, before I called the cops. He was white — hard to miss, since he was nearly naked in the middle of the empty street — so I called. I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been; all I know is that I would have tried to help in some way that would probably have been no help at all. The cops were already on their way; the ambulance scooped him up, and I never did learn what happened. He reminded me of the poor young man who escaped from Jeffrey Dahmer; for all I knew, he truly needed a cop.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:47 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


It's probably some of both—some unreasonable, racist fear and some next-level assholes who are actively looking to fuck with black folks. It's racism either way, though. Personally, I've come around to jaduncan's point of view over the years. If I call the cops on a black person I'm morally responsible for whatever happens to them, up to and including their getting shot and killed, so I'd better be damn sure it's necessary.

Calling the cops doesn't always make a bad situation better. Very often it makes it much, much worse than it had to be. I'll be honest and admit that that's a lesson that took a while to really sink in for me, but these days that message has been very much received.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:50 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


It’s worth noting that the student who called the cops in Yale is working on a thesis related to the oppression of women, if you wanted more evidence that a great deal of white feminism is not meant to cover women of colour.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:55 PM on May 10 [63 favorites]




A couple of years ago I had a cantankerous, drunk old white hippie in a Grateful Dead shirt call out to me on the street to call an ambulance for him. He had fallen and apparently dislocated his shoulder.

He was switching between sarcastic and belligerent and apparently had just gotten kicked out of a bar, and I was pretty worried it was only going to make his night worse if the cops showed up. I mentioned the police might come, and that I didn't know if he had any reason to worry about that or if he had anything he needed to get rid of in his backpack (hint hint), and offered to get him a cab if he preferred, but he insisted I call 911.

It was the 3rd of July, so it took a while, but an ambulance came and the EMTs handled it patiently and got him into the ambulance, even reasoning with him when he tried to get them to just pop his arm back into its socket on the street so he wouldn't get a bill. I have no idea how this would have gone if he weren't white, and I can't say the police wouldn't have been equally compassionate and effective, but it wasn't really a criminal matter and I'm glad they weren't there.
posted by smelendez at 2:56 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


One of the reasons I hate Philly is that EVERYTHING goes through the 911 system. There's no non-emergency line that gets any sort of response. Same dispatcher for active hostage situations as reporting vandalism.

The parking authority doesn't even patrol in my neighborhood so if there's obviously dangerous parking (blocking entire sidewalk, blocking 7 of the 8 curb cuts at an intersection), nothing happens unless someone calls 911. Dispatcher might send a bike cop, might send a questionably-trained rookie cop.

I hate these shithead drivers for making a walkable neighborhood so hostile to pedestrians, especially less-mobile pedestrians, but damn I'm reluctant to do anything about it with the current setup.
posted by supercres at 2:57 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


can't find it any more, but I read a tweet once that said that "White people treat the police like customer service."
Echoed in J. Cole's No Role Modelz :"I came fast like 9-1-1 in white neighborhoods"
There's also something going on here that is very much at the intersection of white supremacy and the patriarchy. There's a certain helplessness white women are often taught from a very young age, and a certain level of fear that is very racialized.
Yes! I would love to read more about this process of taught helplessness -- I often feel this is what I (blessedly) lack, as a Chinese-American woman who sometimes doesn't relate to white girl problems.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:58 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


FFS! I think it's pretty obvious that this is not speaking to actual emergencies/crimes where an officer of the law would be called upon.

I am curious what you think the clear-cut cases for calling the cops are, because living in Chicago calling the cops means accepting an extremely high likelihood someone will have grievous violence inflicted upon them. It's actually hard for me to think of a plausible situation I might be in in which I would have a reasonable expectation that the presence of CPD would result in less harm than their absence.
posted by PMdixon at 3:01 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


Hostage situations, missing children ...
posted by Countess Elena at 3:03 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


There's also something going on here that is very much at the intersection of white supremacy and the patriarchy. There's a certain helplessness white women are often taught from a very young age, and a certain level of fear that is very racialized.
Yes! I would love to read more about this process of taught helplessness -- I often feel this is what I (blessedly) lack, as a Chinese-American woman who sometimes doesn't relate to white girl problems.
I find it especially interesting that as a white trans woman I don't feel like I got that bit of socialization. Not that I'm not racist — I definitely am, in lots of other concrete and abstract ways. Just that the specific racist habit of skittishly avoiding black men at night, or whatever, was never taught to me, and pretty clearly would have been if I'd been knowingly raised as a girl.

(Instead, I got taught the white-boy bad habit of treating black men as harsh arbiters of cool and toughness, and thus as threats to my status. Which is its own brainfuck to unlearn...)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:05 PM on May 10 [19 favorites]


It's actually hard for me to think of a plausible situation I might be in in which I would have a reasonable expectation that the presence of CPD would result in less harm than their absence.

Hostage situations, missing children ...


The extremely fucked up thing about policing is that those are situations that are almost guaranteed to get someone, often someone unconnected to the crime, shot by a cop. Those are precisely the scenarios people make up when they want to SWAT someone. It's what got this confused man murdered on the front porch of his own home when the cops got the wrong address and rolled in guns blazing.
posted by Copronymus at 3:10 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


The last time I had to wrestle with this question was two weeks ago when my bad downstairs neighbor was fighting with...some non-parental female who sounded like either their sister or girlfriend-possibly-wife, hard to tell because of screaming and crying. They seemed to stop after I walked into the room above them and made the floor creak, but the dude is a dick and I don't know if I can reason my way out of calling 911 next time.
posted by rhizome at 3:10 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


The Yale story resonates with me because when I was in college we were repeatedly encouraged by the administration to call campus security if we saw someone who we felt wasn't supposed to be on campus. Campus security was the cops. But there was no training on how to tell who "doesn't belong" and the school was so big there's no way you could be expected to recognize everyone. So you would inevitably get situations like the one described in the article where people would rely on racist or classist signals to figure out when to call police. If universities are going to ask their students to be a neighborhood watch they at least need to give them some kind of modicum of training on how to do so in a reasonable way...
posted by phoenixy at 3:11 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


One morning grumpybearbride and I were awoken around 3:30AM to the sound of one dude laying into another dude over some apparently major failure to deliver on a promise. Both men were Black. The angry dude was, like, level 11 angry, and the guy on the receiving end just kept saying "sorry" which made the angry dude even more angry. It made me nervous because it sounded like it might have progressed to violence. Then, suddenly, an older white woman screams out of her window "I'M GOING TO CALL THE COPS!" and it was like you could hear a switch flip in angry dude's head. You could hear his shoulders droop, his head turn to the woman with an exasperated "really, lady?" expression. And I felt for the guy, because that woman potentially introduced lethal force into the equation when up to that point all it had been was yelling at an unreasonable volume. He continued berating his compatriot in a lower voice for a few minutes and then they were quiet.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but this sounds like a good outcome -- the loud people got quiet, no cops overreacted to anything, grumpybear was able to go back to sleep.
posted by billm at 3:12 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


I love how that white woman waited for TWO HOURS for cops to show up after she called 911 because people were GRILLING where they shouldn't have. The level of authoritarian righteousness she must have felt, I can't even imagine.

The other side of this is why are cops being dispatched for these calls?

The third part of this is that, even calling 911 in the event of a medical emergency can result in police being dispatched with fatal results. Reference Kenneth Chamberlain, and there are others I don't have right at my fingertips.
posted by muddgirl at 3:15 PM on May 10 [31 favorites]


Someone did put together a simple flow chart about when you should call the cops.
posted by Copronymus at 3:17 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


Just that the specific racist habit of skittishly avoiding black men at night, or whatever, was never taught to me, and pretty clearly would have been if I'd been knowingly raised as a girl.

The helplessness goes deeper than that, imo. That's just one way it manifests itself. There is a real tendency, even in younger white women today to still defer to white men in their lives and see them as a source of security. White women will talk a great game about independence and equality but they are still taught to carve out spaces for white men in their lives, to accept if not embrace their white supremacy ("it's just politics"), and to know how very vulnerable they are if they do not have the support/security offered by white men. The latter, also works as a nice implicit threat in case they have trouble staying in line because who will support and protect them if they don't have a white man to do that?

(The irony being that the greatest threat to white women is, statistically, white men.)

It's why so much of white feminism is focused on countering that but without any acknowledgment of the full implications. And if you don't acknowledge the sense of power some white women get from treating white men as their attack dogs, you can never truly dismantle the white patriarchy.
posted by asteria at 3:18 PM on May 10 [59 favorites]


A year or two ago I heard lots of glass breaking (at like 2 in the afternoon) and went out on my porch to see a dude from the transitional house (from the dual-diagnosis hospital nearby) a couple doors down methodically smashing the window of one of the transitional house buildings in with a rock, clearing out the glass, and then dragging a lawn chair over to climb inside.

I sat there on the porch monitoring the situation and hoping and hoping that all the other white neighbors I knew must also be watching this were not calling the cops on this black guy who lived there and was clearly making a Very Dumb -- but not dangerous (except maybe to himself re: shards of glass...) -- Decision. I don't know if he just forgot his keys or he was high or some combination or what.

Of course someone did call, because eventually cops showed up. All I saw was some calm discussion and then they went away again. But obviously just luck it worked out that way that one time.
posted by little cow make small moo at 3:19 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


The Yale story resonates with me because when I was in college we were repeatedly encouraged by the administration to call campus security if we saw someone who we felt wasn't supposed to be on campus. Campus security was the cops. But there was no training on how to tell who "doesn't belong" and the school was so big there's no way you could be expected to recognize everyone.

The student who called the cops knew the other student. As in she’d already called the police on one of her (also student) friends.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:25 PM on May 10 [41 favorites]


One time I was at a bus stop and I saw some public-day-drunk grizzled white dude yelling at some older black man who’d been minding his business. I was worried the white guy was gonna start something, so I sidled up to the police car that’s usually stationed at that corner and said to the black cop in the car, hey, that white guy over there is scaring me, maybe you should have a chat? It took him a moment to understand that I was referring to the white dude. Then for some reason it was still the black dude I saw him talking to two minutes later. I guess he could have been choosing to chat with the more reasonable of the men to get the rundown, but I dunno, guys. White supremacy runs deep.
posted by eirias at 3:26 PM on May 10 [17 favorites]


It's actually hard for me to think of a plausible situation I might be in in which I would have a reasonable expectation that the presence of CPD would result in less harm than their absence.

I struggle with this, because I can think of a few that are at least plausible:
-if I see someone physically hurting someone else (like not just a stupid bar fight, but an actual for-sure assault/abuse situation)
-reckless driving. I am aware of the fact that much of the unacceptable police profiling and violence happens during traffic stops, but regardless of that, someone who is (e.g) repeatedly swerving out of their lane on the highway needs attention stat and obviously no other human is in a position to intervene.
-someone potentially dangerous who also needs medical attention (I'm close to several EMTs and paramedics and I respect the fact that their duty does not extend to putting themselves in harm's way). I've been in this situation (a stranger with a probable overdose) and I really struggled with what to do, I don't know what the right call was, I really hope they're okay.

I've read some of the articles about community-based alternatives to policing (and will continue to read the ones above, thanks Shaydem-tants) but I'm struggling to come up with creative, appropriate ways to handle these situations. I suppose I could just leave things alone but I wouldn't feel good about that, either (and in the case of someone I'm close to who was seriously assaulted in public a few weeks ago, I'm really glad someone called the cops on her behalf).
posted by mosst at 3:28 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


About a year ago driving home I watched 12 (twelve, yes, a dozen) cops in my town (Escondido, CA) hover in some kind of Cop Hokey Pokey Circle outside a bookstore as one of them half-heartedly asked a black man to leave the area.

They were not there for safety - they let people in and out of the store
They were not there to arrest the man - he left under his own power
They were not there for safety - he was not loud or intimidating, and while his body language was twitchy, I'd be twitchy too if 12 cops with guns were standing in a circle as one of them talked to me.

I don't know what the fuck their excuse for being there was, but I know that the reality was "shabbily dressed black man who looks like he could use a shower was in the bookstore" scares the ever loving FUCK out of the people in the area of this bookstore.

All 12 were white. Naturally.
The cashiers in the store - mostly white
Most of the customers - white
posted by FritoKAL at 3:34 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Do not call the cops because they're bicycling in your cul-de-sac at 9:30 in the morning.

I got taught the white-boy bad habit of treating black men as harsh arbiters of cool and toughness, and thus as threats to my status

I never heard anyone really articulate this so simply before, and it does resonate, and explains why certain white men go all weird around black guys sometimes, putting on accents and gestures that as a white woman acquaintance of theirs I'd never normally seen them do.
posted by Miko at 3:37 PM on May 10 [44 favorites]


White Americans in particular are educated from a very young age to Trust and Respect the police. Literally, cops come into grade schools to give presentations on their jobs. Other than firefighters, I know of no other occupation for which that is a custom.

Apparently John Mulaney satirized this practice on his new Netflix special and a former Chicago cop is all up in arms about it (and the press is of course giving him a platform) . As well he might be... Gotta get 'em while they're young, right? (I recalled today that the trooper who came to my grade school in rural PA gave eight year old me the creeps. Adult me somehow lost that spidey sense along the way.)

So we're trained culturally to Call The Cops.
Also a huge contributor to feeling that 911 is the only option is the lack of community bonds and supports that would make the cops all but superfluous. The blog post I linked above offers some ways to approach hard situations differently.

I'm new to prison abolition ideas myself and I have a lot of reading and political self-education to do.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:43 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


-if I see someone physically hurting someone else (like not just a stupid bar fight, but an actual for-sure assault/abuse situation)

I would not trust cops not to take the abuser's side and would solidly put this in the "bad but cops just as likely to exacerbate as mitigate" bucket of shitty things to have to figure out how to respond to.

-reckless driving. I am aware of the fact that much of the unacceptable police profiling and violence happens during traffic stops, but regardless of that, someone who is (e.g) repeatedly swerving out of their lane on the highway needs attention stat and obviously no other human is in a position to intervene.

The one time I did this when I was younger and had less mistrust of authority figures empowered to commit violence without oversight, the dispatcher literally laughed at me.

-someone potentially dangerous who also needs medical attention (I'm close to several EMTs and paramedics and I respect the fact that their duty does not extend to putting themselves in harm's way). I've been in this situation (a stranger with a probable overdose) and I really struggled with what to do, I don't know what the right call was, I really hope they're okay.

This is probably the realistic hard call, and the best answer I can give is that if one chooses to cause the police to intervene then one is assuming a duty of care towards that person in terms of keeping them safe from police brutality.
posted by PMdixon at 3:46 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


you can start using your immense white privilege to observe and document police interactions with black people. I make it a point to watch quietly but obviously if the police are around

Yes and, videotape it on your phone. if your battery is dead, still hold up your phone, they won't know.

I would say that unless you are in direct personal danger, calling the police brings upon you a responsibility to stay at the seen and help amanage the situation. You can explain things to the officer, interceded if they jump to the wrong conclusion, etc. And videotape.
posted by msalt at 3:55 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


Maybe I'm missing something here, but this sounds like a good outcome -- the loud people got quiet, no cops overreacted to anything, grumpybear was able to go back to sleep.

So this is kind of the heart of it. I think that people are really focusing on "don't call the police on someone who is black if you wouldn't call the police on someone who was white doing the exact same thing", and the thing is - that's a really convenient, and easy, standard to adopt if you are a white middle-class person who really likes being comfortable, because then you can tell yourself all you have to do is treat the times you call police over annoyances as race-blind moments, and you're fine, and that really ignores the heart of what precisely is problematic about using the police as your nuisance-interferers.

The act of thinking it is reasonable to call men with guns - because that's, at heart, what the police are - to quiet the people who are not letting you sleep, or who are urinating in your sight, or parking in the wrong place, or littering, or what have you - is, in itself, an expression of privilege. It is an assumption that your comfort is not just ensured, but worthy of being protected by men with guns who will go over and interfere with the people who are annoying you.

And I am constantly amazed by how white people of a certain class status, because this is far from universal, are completely unwilling to have the confrontation themselves, because they want to externalize the negative consequences.

Like: if my neighbors are being loud, I put in earplugs, or I just deal with it, because it's only one night, and I don't think that my world must exist in a bubble of comfort. And if my neighbors are noisy every night, and it's really bugging me, I go over and talk to my neighbors. And that means my neighbors have to have a reason to want to accomodate me. And that just - does not seem to be an expectation that is shared by white middle-class folks, the idea that the world is inherently chaotic and sometimes that chaos will irritate you and you just have to live with it or deal with it and change it yourself and that your neighbors don't owe it to you to rearrange their lives for your comfort.
posted by corb at 3:59 PM on May 10 [96 favorites]


Maybe I'm missing something here, but this sounds like a good outcome -- the loud people got quiet, no cops overreacted to anything, grumpybear was able to go back to sleep.

The *outcome* was good, but the means to that outcome - flexing white privilege via the threat of police violence - was very, very troubling. The same outcome could have been achieved by shouting "WOULD YOU TWO NOODLEBRAINS PLEASE SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLES" and it would have made instead for an amusing anecdote
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:07 PM on May 10 [33 favorites]


I know that MeFi is a site heavily populated by users from the USA, so mods: feel free to delete if this is too much of a "what about me?" derail.

I live in a country (Canada) which shares a lot of cultural common ground with the US including, unfortunately, more than a little racism. And while it has been mentioned in passing (previously, etc.) there has been no FPP on the van attack in Toronto two weeks ago. Some mefites may be unaware of many of the details beyond the casualties; I would point out that after the van struck over two dozen pedestrians along more than a mile of Yonge Street, Toronto Police Services responded to the call and the first officer on the scene (Constable Ken Lam) confronted the driver, Alek Minassian, after the van came to a halt.

[raw video] Lam drew his weapon and ordered Minassian to get down; Minassian repeatedly pulled out a small dark object and pointed it at Lam, shouting "Kill me!". Lam surmised it was not a weapon, holstered his own service weapon and approached Minassian with a baton. Minassian surrendered and was arrested, and he now faces ten counts of murder and sixteen of attempted murder.

Lam's restraint and de-escalation of the situation has drawn wide praise. I have heard but been unable to confirm that the TPS is now operating under different rules of engagement since the Sammy Yatim shooting five years ago where a teenager armed with a knife and inside an otherwise empty streetcar was shot to death by a police constable (James Forcillo, who lost his appeal is is now serving a six-year sentence).

tl; dr: It can get better.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:09 PM on May 10 [65 favorites]


Maybe a first step would be to issue a nice hefty fine to the caller for wasting the police's time and also add a surcharge for being an asshole.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 4:20 PM on May 10 [16 favorites]


When I was 22, I was shoved down violently on the street and my purse was stolen. I am white, my assailant was black. He was also late 40s, bearded, and dressed in a red checked shirt. I called the police, as I was taught to do. They came quickly and took me on a drive around in West Philly looking for the guy. They used it as an excuse to stop every black man of every age, searching them and shoving them against the car. When I protested none of these were the guy, they (the police) called me names and told me to stfu. That was my first lesson about US cops.

On the other hand, I get nervous about advice to *never* call the police. Two years after the first incident I am grateful for the anonymous neighbor who called the police when they saw someone break into the basement of my rowhouse. The guy had a history of violent assault, robbery and rape and was waiting by my washing machine with a gun while I was clueless in my living room upstairs. Whoever called the police in that case could have saved my life.
posted by frumiousb at 4:21 PM on May 10 [49 favorites]


The same outcome could have been achieved by shouting "WOULD YOU TWO NOODLEBRAINS PLEASE SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLES"

I live in a place where there's rather a lot of 3:30a.m.-style-yelling and tbh the few times anyone's tried that approach it's just escalated the situation, so that instead of two people yelling, or two small groups yelling, the initial argument pauses while both parties both turn their attention to yelling at whoever shouted at them to stop. The solution is definitely not "actually call the cops," or "threaten to call the cops," because it's not worth risking anyone's physical safety, but as things stand, there kind of... isn't a solution. There is just inward-grumbling-while-planning-to-be-utterly-exhausted-the-next-day-from-lack-of-sleep. As corb says above, there are sometimes problems that just kind of don't have solutions, and situations that just kind of suck and lead to discomfort and have no good fix. But convincing people that they're just going to have to deal with that fact is a tough sell, particularly if they're used to situations where there is some sort of authority they get to appeal to.
posted by halation at 4:24 PM on May 10 [16 favorites]


With all due respect to the Toronto PD, Alek Minassian does not appear to be a person of color.
posted by muddgirl at 4:25 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


That is true: I was approaching this more from a police reaction angle than a racial one, which is why I mentioned it as potentially derailling.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:29 PM on May 10


It’s worth noting that the student who called the cops in Yale is working on a thesis related to the oppression of women

Jesus. Is there a link?
posted by schadenfrau at 4:29 PM on May 10


yes i agree, i too am very very hesitant to involve police for all the reasons discussed above. maybe if i was involved in or was witnessing an ongoing armed robbery or violent assault/attempted murder on the street, i would.

but there is a flipside to this. being realistic, not all of us are friends with all our neighbors in a healthy, cooperative community where we can call upon each other for mutual aid. i dont even like most of my neighbors. so if i see a fucked up situation on my block near dtla (a disturbed individual, or a minor crime of some sort), i'm definitely not going to call the police, but i'm also not going to try to fix the problem if i believe it would put me at risk. realistically, i'm just going to ignore it. that is the unfortunate truth for many people, i think.
posted by wibari at 4:29 PM on May 10 [19 favorites]


I have called the police (in England, not routinely armed with more than a baton, not one of the metropolitan forces) twice in my life. Both times it was because someone was actively trying to break into my flat while I was in it, and my shouting was not disuading them. Both times, they only stopped and shifted from breaking the front door down (the torn apart doorframe was fun to explain to the landlord) or climbing through my kitchen window when they heard approaching sirens. They were both caught. The door guy was white, bit a cop on the face (!!) while being arrested, and had an outstanding arrest warrant from a few towns over for meth possession. He ended up in prison on account of the assault on an officer and meth thing. The other was a youngish black man (who was climbing in through my kitchen window to, and I quote "fuck with" me after I'd told him to maybe not break into my neighbour's car while I was watching - he was drunkenly trying to break the window after having spent a few minutes repeatedly tugging at the doors) who was calmly talked down and put in the drunk tank overnight and released without charge the next morning.

Both times I was utterly pilloried for calling the police by the local queer communities, because apparently they're a dangerous threat to us (I'm trans and bi) and I was selfish and evil and racist and putting everyone in danger by calling them.

I don't think this FPP is wrong in its thrust, but I do worry about the extremes to which some people sometimes take things. Maybe that attitude would be reasonable in Chicago, say. Certainly, less police involvement in general, less invoking them over trivialities or someone simply being black, and a demilitarisation and move toward meaningful community engagement rather than being out calling the enforcers. But christ do the police abolitionists in Britain scare me.
posted by Dysk at 4:31 PM on May 10 [33 favorites]


I would not consider calling the cops over a parking issue -- among other things there is generally not a driver there to talk to -- even remotely comparable to calling over a black man existing near me and making me uncomfortable.
posted by jeather at 4:32 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


schadenfrau, here's the Yale Daily News write-up; it's clearly a situation where the white student is intentionally and repeatedly harassing this particular black student (and at least one other black student). Further background on Braasch, the white student.
posted by halation at 4:33 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


I don't want somebody to die while I'm trying to weigh all the socioeconomic ramifications of a situation. That would, perhaps, be the whitest thing I could possibly do.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:35 PM on May 10 [17 favorites]


He reminded me of the poor young man who escaped from Jeffrey Dahmer; for all I knew, he truly needed a cop.

The first time cops found a victim that had escaped from Dahmer, they sent him back to Dahmer. One of the two police involved in that incident ended up as head of the Milwaukee Police Union.
posted by drezdn at 4:44 PM on May 10 [32 favorites]


I consider which jurisdiction I am in before I call police. Not all departments are created equal, by a long shot.

We should want police who are fair, effective, de-escalating, and respectful of rule of law. The closer we get to that ideal, the willing I am to involve them.
posted by andrewpcone at 4:44 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


From WaPo linked upthread: "The nation is also engaged in a dialogue about disparate treatment of minorities in public places after black people who have not committed crimes have controversially had the police called on them at an Alabama Waffle House, Philadelphia Starbucks and Pennsylvania golf course."

It's otherwise a good article, but framing like this drives me nuts. "A dialogue" implies that there are two voices engaged in a mutual attempt at understanding. "Controversially" implies that there are two sides of a debate happening. What is the justification or argument on behalf of white people who call the police on black people who are doing nothing wrong and are merely existing in a place they're allowed to exist? "On one hand, these white people shouldn't have called the police on black people who didn't commit any crimes and didn't invite any attention or suspicion whatsoever. However, on the other, _______." Is there literally any way to fill in the blank other than white supremacist stuff?
posted by naju at 4:51 PM on May 10 [20 favorites]


The same outcome could have been achieved by shouting "WOULD YOU TWO NOODLEBRAINS PLEASE SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLES" and it would have made instead for an amusing anecdote

Could it? The anecdote clearly involves one man being furious. And a part of patriarchy that people are ignoring is that everyone considers it acceptable to argue with women. (There was a group of people shouting outside my window once, and I asked them to be quiet, since I needed to sleep. One of the men asked me what time I went to work, as though my bedtime were something that could be negotiated.)

“Do you want me to call the cops?” may be a threat, but it’s less of a threat than the man who shouts about having a gun.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 4:54 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


I'm in the SF Bay Area, and my husband knew Oscar Grant. I would not call the police on a person of color unless I wanted them dead.

Waving machine guns around? Call police. Mugging someone at knifepoint? Call police. Setting fire to building with people sleeping inside? Call police.

Partying too loud? Driving fast and reckless? Drunkenly leering and/or shouting at people? Building a bonfire in the middle of the street? Tipping over a car? Smashing windows on a store? Hell no. None of those are worth someone's life.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:55 PM on May 10 [15 favorites]


The story about a lady harassing people for barbecuing while black (linked by rewil) is really extraordinary. How vindictive do you have to be to identify this act as something illegal (allegedly cooking in the wrong part of the park), report it, then hang around for two hours to make sure that those miscreants learn their lesson?

The fact that the complainant waited for the police is instructive, too. A lot of racism is ascribed to fear. In fact, I bet a lot of it is experienced as fear. But this woman evidently was not afraid, not the least little bit: she was very open about what she was doing and was confident that the party she reported wouldn't do anything to harm her - again, while she was glowering at them for two hours.

I used to think that these seldom-enforced laws were basically exhortative: don't pick the flowers, they're there for everyone! Don't litter, it makes the place look dirty! Don't sell single cigarettes, it makes it hard to track tax revenue! Things like this, though, make me think that these laws don't reflect our fear of the consequences as much as the desire to police people. I have to think that the people passing these laws know that they're only going to be selectively enforced, and that they're OK with that, because they can't be seen to support openly discriminatory laws.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:09 PM on May 10 [27 favorites]


If you're a white person, you ought to make "weighing the socioeconomic implications" of your actions second nature, sort of automatic. Otherwise you're likely to harm people by just carelessly swinging your privilege around without considering the consequences. Your privilege is there whether you're thinking about it or not, and it can very easily do a lot of damage in the world, so you have a responsibility to think about it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:14 PM on May 10 [19 favorites]


Another thing to consider when thinking about calling 911 is that even a good, safe, positive outcome in the moment can later be used as evidence to evict the victim of a crime. As an example, Maplewood, MO uses calls to 911 about certain addresses, even if the occupants are victims of crime, as a pretext to revoke their occupancy permit.

It feels very much like there are no winners when you call 911 for anything short of extreme violence and death.
posted by HiddenInput at 5:14 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


I dunno, I called 911 the other day because someone's extension ladder had fallen off their vehicle and was lying smack in the middle of a busy freeway where it was guaranteed to eventually cause an accident. I feel like there were winners in that situation, but granted I was essentially calling the cops on an inanimate object.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:18 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


I live in Australia. I do not understand what's wrong with treating the police like customer service*. I don't think the police should be for arresting people. I think it's reasonable to expect them to be trained to manage fraught scenarios and help de-escalate situations. I don't think it's fair for people to have to know how to do that on their own. (I think, in the situation where someone is calling the cops on a couple of normal people doing normal things, the person who called the cops has been, at best, wasting the police's time, which is an offence.)

I don't understand why 'radical overhaul of policing and actual accountability to marginalised communities' isn't a political issue in all these state and local elections I'm hearing about in the US politics threads. The fruits of civilisation should not be a privilege.

* I appreciate that giving customer service people guns would probably work out about as poorly, but then America has a weird relationship with guns.
posted by Merus at 5:25 PM on May 10 [15 favorites]


I don't think the police should be for arresting people. I think it's reasonable to expect them to be trained to manage fraught scenarios and help de-escalate situations.

The starbucks manager who called the cops did not do it to "manage a fraught scenario and help de-escalate situations." That's not why the barbeque nazi did it, either. Or the graduate student who called the cops on her dormmate. Calling the cops was intended to be an escalation, rightly or wrongly. A lot of these articles are pointing out that we can't expect the cops to de-escalate (although they should) when we are calling them as an act of escalation to get our way.
posted by muddgirl at 5:40 PM on May 10 [34 favorites]


Yeah, I don’t feel bad about calling the cops on the drunk white teens shooting fireworks at people at 2 am on a school night. I also don’t feel bad about calling them on the black guy shooting a gun in the air across the street. I feel very mixed about when the couple behind me has scary violent fights. He’s black, she’s white, I can’t tell if one is the aggressor or what. So I don’t call, but I worry.

The cops as currently formulated are generally a force for the status quo of white supremacy, but the idea of cops in general is hard to imagine getting away from. If the state won’t commit violence to enforce the law, then anyone who is willing to commit violence becomes the de facto law. Anarchy is a sweet dream, but in practice armed warlords will always hold sway. So better that they be armed warlords we excercise some electoral power over.
posted by rikschell at 5:47 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Last December when I dislocated my knee, I knew instantly that a) this was very bad, and b) there was absolutely no way I was going to get out of my basement under my own power. I shouted (okay, screamed) to my wife to call for an ambulance. She did, explained the situation to the 911 dispatcher, and the paramedics arrived promptly. I was pretty focused on dealing with my own pain, so I wasn't fully aware of what was going on around me, but several days later, my wife told me that actually a police officer had shown up as well.

So first off, this is pretty confusing -- this was obviously a medical emergency, not a police matter. Perhaps there's a local policy to dispatch police in situations like this in case of domestic abuse or something. But more disturbingly, apparently while I, and my wife, and all of the paramedics were all down in the basement dealing with my stupid knee, the cop that showed up illegally entered our house through the front door without permission. I vaguely recall hearing someone upstairs shouting "hello?" while the paramedics were trying to work out the logistics of moving me without further damaging my knee, and someone having to go let this guy know where everyone was. As best I can tell, he showed up, illegally entered our home, stood around awkwardly for a few minutes, then left.

What does this have to do with the FPP? Well, my wife and I are both white, but we live in (had just moved to, in fact) a lower-middle-class neighborhood that is probably about 60%-70% Black, mostly families and older folk. So now I can't help but think:

1. Would the 911 dispatchers have sent police if we lived in a different, whiter neighborhood? I don't know.

2. Did the cop who came assume he was coming to the home of a Black family, and did this give him a sense of license to enter our home despite no one giving him permission to enter and no evidence of a crime being apparent? I can only think this is likely.

3. Will calling 911 for medical emergencies in the future result in the police being dispatched? This may make us think twice about seeking medical help in an emergency.

4. Does our local police department customarily act with this level of impunity regarding entering people's property? This single interaction has immediately and dramatically reduced my level of trust in our local police department.

The racial injustice in the way the police behave in the U.S. poisons and undermines all interactions between non-police and police. Obviously it's worst for people of color, but really everyone suffers for it in one way or another.
posted by biogeo at 5:47 PM on May 10 [26 favorites]


And I should add that white people are obligated to use their electoral power to clean up police abuse. This is hard, because there’s a whole toxic police culture that’s hard to get anyone to address from the inside, but it’s possible because policing is managed locally, and local politics are all about organizing and working with real people, not corporate money.
posted by rikschell at 5:54 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


The problem with de-escalation is that in a lot of these cases, one person doesn't even know there's a conflict to de-escalate until the police show up. Cops talking to the "suspicious" person at all is escalating the situation.

You really need them to go further and tell whoever called "sorry, nothing that you've described or that we see here is evidence of a crime, have a good day."
posted by smelendez at 6:01 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


‘I Love Hate Speech’: Sarah Braasch, the white woman who called police on Black Yale grad student for napping in dorm, defends slavery and supports burqa ban in writings

Oh jesus take the wheel. This is personal for me because I really really wanted to get accepted into the Yale PhD for Phil back when I was applying to programs and the rejection hurts all over again knowing they admitted this crazy racist lady who apparently is incapable of rational thought despite her 5 degrees or whatever
posted by dis_integration at 6:13 PM on May 10 [40 favorites]


Sounds to me like you dodged a bullet.
posted by biogeo at 6:17 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Also based in Australia, but police are not "customer service". Sure, our cops are trained differently and they don't get the level of firepower that the US wants the local constabulary to have - but you don't go to the butcher for a sore tooth and you don't get your dinner order at the dentist. The better police training usually does mean that they will remove themselves from a situation as quickly as possible if there is a better service provider.

One of my major gripes has been the "criminalisation" of behaviour. A great deal of which is encouraged by our legislators - I mean, really, not paying parking tickets, road tolls, etc is a CRIMINAL offence? If it wasn't for specific legislation, those financial costs would be civil matters.

Can we keep CRIMINAL behaviour requiring POLICE intervention to activities which justify the sledgehammer results that the system can impose? If you want the social patrol, can't you just find some retired school teachers to start etiquette classes?

The "customer service" approach encourages parasitic behaviour such as that of Walmart, where most police departments experience a massive increase in call outs to enforce Walmart's complaints. Why subsidise a capitalist venture with public resources?
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:18 PM on May 10 [27 favorites]


For those who treat police as customer service, I genuinely want to know where that idea was inculcated in your upbringing, what moment(s) in your childhood crystallized to you that the police are here for your own personal edification and to cater to your minor inconveniences and service requests and petty complaints, etc. It's a completely foreign concept to me and it sends chills down my spine to think that maybe this is just what white people have always been taught. Was it just that your school brought Officer Friendly and McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog into class one day to talk about drugs and stranger danger, and the brown kids realized it's pure propaganda sooner or later while the white kids bought it completely and continue to do so as adults?
posted by naju at 6:27 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


for me the opposite happened in kindergarten when the police came to fingerprint all the kids "in case of ~kidnapping~" and my dad had a 1944 budapest ghetto flashback and was like OVER MY DEAD BODY, NAZI SCUM
posted by poffin boffin at 6:41 PM on May 10 [87 favorites]


There was a time in the fall of 1986 I was homeless and lived in the dorms at a college where I was not a student, sleeping on my futon on the floor of a friend's room. For many, many weeks. Stupid white kid from central Maine in the City. Hardly anyone said anything. I doubt any POC would get away with that. Especially nowadays.
posted by AJScease at 7:05 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


I promise to not call the cops, period. Seems like asking for trouble regardless of scenario.

FFS! I think it's pretty obvious that this is not speaking to actual emergencies/crimes where an officer of the law would be called upon.


The rule of thumb should be "If you call the cops, there is a very good chance that someone is going to end up dead, and that person might even be you."

So, if you're running a good chance of dying anyway, go ahead and call 'em.. Otherwise, adding the police to a situation only makes that situation worse.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 7:09 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


The story about a lady harassing people for barbecuing while black (linked by rewil) is really extraordinary. How vindictive do you have to be to identify this act as something illegal (allegedly cooking in the wrong part of the park), report it, then hang around for two hours to make sure that those miscreants learn their lesson?

This isn't the first time this has happened, not that long ago someone called the cops on some black folk for drumming at Lake Merrit. White dude was not only not scared, he basically started assaulting the drummers and then waited around for a dozen cops to show up, who promptly took his side.
posted by bradbane at 7:15 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


I have lived in many different places in the US, and that has given me the perspective that a lot of this is regional. Meaning, in one town, calling the cops on people fighting might be a good way to save someone's life, and in another town the cops will show up and escalate the situation and beat or shoot people who are already victims, sometimes including the person who made the call. Different police departments have different cultures, they are very similar to fraternities and gangs (and in some places are exactly like criminal gangs, simply organized crime). I now make it a habit to ask around the neighborhood about people's experiences with local police, and take into consideration how their race/class presentation might affect their experiences. The more information I have, the better judgement call I can make if I think someone is in serious danger.

Also, remember that you can not call the cops, but still yell "the cops have been called and they're on their way, do you want to be here when they show up?" when someone's getting mugged on your stoop.

The whole culture of law enforcement in the US is very problematic. It is deeply entrenched and tied into existing power structures. I don't have a simple solution, but I have heard of examples where communities have joined together to hold their political e department accountable, successfully pushing for changes in policy, and in one case, requiring all new applicants to the police department complete a degree in social work.
posted by ethical_caligula at 7:26 PM on May 10 [18 favorites]


> in one case, requiring all new applicants to the police department complete a degree in social work.

I wonder if this would work nationwide or if it would just help someone make a lot of money offering an online social work degree aimed at aspiring cops.
posted by smelendez at 7:52 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


The other side of this is why are cops being dispatched for these calls?

Dear Police: Thank you for protecting my property, but please stop responding to every damn call you receive from my frightened, insular neighbors.

Maybe a first step would be to issue a nice hefty fine to the caller for wasting the police's time and also add a surcharge for being an asshole.

Sounds good to me. Unfortunately, "If You See Something, Say Something" means somebody's gotta respond somehow.
posted by Rash at 8:13 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


About three years ago, I was woken up by a loud party type thing across the street. There was some kind of party in the building next to the laundry mat, and it had either spilled into the street or these were people waiting to get in. Either way, they were loud, potentially drunk and it was 3am. Also, they seemed to entirely be either Black or Latino. I was annoyed, but I figured I could just wait them out. I didn't want to call the cops for all of the above mentioned reasons.

Oh that I was once again the only white guy on my old block. Someone else called the cops and they showed up and had people get moving. I didn't hear any shouting, but I also couldn't hear any conversations.

That someone else called the cops I figure is pretty typical. What I was not expecting was the pushback I got from some of my liberal friends when I wrote about what had happened on Facebook. People said that I was being overly dramatic in thinking that calling the cops would get some Black kid shot. And the police did not shoot anyone that night. I suppose I should have expressed things in terms of systematic racism, rather than "I don't want to be responsible for someone's death because they were loud," but I still think that was a valid point. Even in New York, even with liberal and fairly woke friends, comfort is placed above the safety of other at times. And people do not realize just how much a threat to inconvenient Black people the cops are. I've seen cops almost ticket a Black driver for honking at them as they jay walked in front of his car (he was saved by a couple of other Black folks who started yelling at the cops and pulling out their phones - to my shame I did not do that, although I'd like to think that I've matured enough to realize that is the thing to do now). If honking at them is enough for them to want to make some innocent Black guy's life harder, I hate to think what being egged on by a scared White person would do.
posted by Hactar at 8:14 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


It was the 3rd of July, so it took a while, but an ambulance came and the EMTs handled it patiently and got him into the ambulance, even reasoning with him when he tried to get them to just pop his arm back into its socket on the street so he wouldn't get a bill.

Don’t call the cops because they kill people. Don’t call the ambulance because you can’t afford to be healed.

This is America.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:25 PM on May 10 [56 favorites]


that maybe this is just what white people have always been taught

Of course class plays a part in this, I grew up poor white trash so I have a pretty healthy fear of authority.
posted by muddgirl at 8:44 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


HiddenInput: As an example, Maplewood, MO uses calls to 911 about certain addresses, even if the occupants are victims of crime, as a pretext to revoke their occupancy permit.
The discrimination is clearly shown in the statistics, the suit says: While just seventeen percent of Maplewood residents are black, a majority of those the city has targeted with its nuisance ordinance since 2011 have been black.

Maplewood requires tenants to obtain an occupancy permit, but under a 2006 city ordinance, that permit can be revoked for a variety of actions deemed a nuisance.
Not being a city dweller, I was shocked to read about occupancy permits. So like, someone just can't live in the city if they don't have an occupancy permit? Is that common? It's like exile beyond the 101st kilometre in the Soviet Union except that the default is that you can't live in the city in the first place until you get a permit, whereas in the USSR the permission was the default until it was revoked.

poffin boffin: for me the opposite happened in kindergarten when the police came to fingerprint all the kids "in case of ~kidnapping~" and my dad had a 1944 budapest ghetto flashback and was like OVER MY DEAD BODY, NAZI SCUM

And of course, according to a recent FPP, the Trump era has ushered in an even-more-dystopian version of this:
...in August, President Trump signed the Rapid DNA Act of 2017, allowing law enforcement to use new technology that produces DNA results in just 90 minutes. The bill had bipartisan support and received little press. But privacy advocates worry it may usher in an era of widespread "stop and spit" policing, in which law enforcement asks anyone they stop for a DNA sample. This is already occurring in towns in Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, according to reporting by ProPublica. If law enforcement deems there is probable cause, they can compel someone to provide DNA; otherwise, it is voluntary.
posted by XMLicious at 9:03 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


I live in Australia. I do not understand what's wrong with treating the police like customer service

I live in Australia too, and while in most places I wouldn't be concerned about calling police if I had a substantial concern, I don't think that can be taken for granted. E.g., from this morning's news:
Police car filmed veering across road and hitting Aboriginal man

And then there's the whole "Black deaths in custody" thing, where the consensus was that indigenous Australians just tend to commit suicide when they're behind bars. That ... has never really convinced me, but they had a Royal Commission and everything about it, so what do I know.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


The rule of thumb should be "If you call the cops, there is a very good chance that someone is going to end up dead, and that person might even be you."

That rule of thumb is really bad. There are 240 million 911 calls per year. The U.S. police arrested 12 million people in 2012. 538 has an analysis on how many people U.S. police kill every year; it's hard to say, but it might pessimistically be on the order of 3,000.

That means that if you call the cops in a situation bad enough that someone is arrested as a result, there might be a one in four thousand chance someone is going to end up dead. It's extremely misleading to say that "If you call the cops, there is a very good chance that someone is going to end up dead."
posted by value of information at 9:20 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


When it comes to the probability of someone being murdered I’m a lot less likely to do something that has a non-zero chance of that. I don’t want anything I do to have any possibility of resulting in murder. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
posted by bleep at 9:27 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


I think with murder anything over 0 might as well be 100.
posted by bleep at 9:29 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


> It's a completely foreign concept to me and it sends chills down my spine to think that maybe this is just what white people have always been taught.

I'm a white educated middle-class American woman of unremarkable appearance and every interaction I've personally had with the police has been fine, including when they've been called on me by someone else. So, yeah, it was taught to me as a kid, and reinforced regularly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:43 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


I (a white educated middle-class American man) had a cop apologize to me somewhat remorsefully for giving me a traffic ticket as he was handing it to me, which I didn't contest because I was having a bad day and was impatient and was really actually speeding. Not all of my contact with the police has been so positive, but even on the occasion when a cop pulled me over because he was having some sort of road rage paroxysm (pulled me over for driving too slowly on a four-lane road, allegedly), and was literally spitting in rage as he shouted at me in explosive fury, did I feel like I was in physical danger.

(Though these days, after watching so many videos of non-white people being murdered and otherwise abused by police, I would be a bit more apprehensive in the latter situation; expecting no more than a ticket as the worst possible outcome was a matter of naïveté, but having once possessed that naïveté is itself a privilege.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:30 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Has this been posted yet? Because I think Starbucks may actually be doing the right thing: Starbucks chairman opens up about company’s race failures — and says its bathrooms are now open to all
Schultz, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington hours before he was slated to receive a business leadership award, said the company is changing its policy, after weeks of controversy, because it wants everyone — customer or not — to feel welcome at Starbucks.

“We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision a hundred percent of the time and give people the key,” Schultz said, “because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than.”
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:35 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure about the grammar in that last bit, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:36 PM on May 10


I recently learned that "come with" goes back to like Shakespeare, so I can imagine "less than" is valid too.
posted by rhizome at 10:55 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


I live in Australia too, and while in most places I wouldn't be concerned about calling police if I had a substantial concern, I don't think that can be taken for granted.

I used to live with a man who had a mental disorder, fully contained by medication, who was very concerned about cops because if you have a history of mental illness, or are an indigenous Australian, you don't get the treatment you deserve from them.

There is a reason I used a lot of 'should' words. I'm objecting to the fatalism, not the existence of the problem.
posted by Merus at 10:59 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


The rule of thumb should be "If you call the cops, there is a very good chance that someone is going to end up dead, and that person might even be you."

That rule of thumb is really bad. There are 240 million 911 calls per year. The U.S. police arrested 12 million people in 2012. 538 has an analysis on how many people U.S. police kill every year; it's hard to say, but it might pessimistically be on the order of 3,000.


Not every 911 call is going to cops--that's also used for medical emergencies, and all sorts of calls that shouldn't have gone to 911. Not every call to the police is related to an arrest-related situation--calling to report a crime like "my car has been stolen" is very, very unlikely to result in shots fired. Not every arrest is the result of a citizen call; "911 calls" and "number of arrests" are separate data pools with some overlap. We'd need a lot more statistics to sort out the danger of calling the cops.

Numbers roundup says police killed at least 1129 people in 2017. There are, as noted, no official records of this. Many jurisdictions refuse to track numbers of officer-caused killings.

The real question is, after a call to complain about "suspicious or dangerous behavior," how many of the police visits result in shootings or deaths? Police departments work very, very hard to hide the data that would let us figure that out. They work even harder to hide information about how they treat white people differently from everyone else.

I am entirely in agreement with "calling the cops in a community full of people of color involves a nonzero chance someone getting killed by a cop, and that someone may not be the criminal. Do not call unless I am willing to accept that." It's not that they're all trigger-happy racist wannabe murderers, but the ones who are, are more than welcome on every police force.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:00 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


> It's a completely foreign concept to me and it sends chills down my spine to think that maybe this is just what white people have always been taught.

I’m not in the US but in my at the time 99.9% white context yes, we were actively taught since childhood to look for a cop if we were lost, frightened, etc. I would imagine that many children of colour in the US are not being actively told that, and some, especially black boys, are having the talk instead.
posted by Iteki at 11:36 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


“Do you want me to call the cops?” may be a threat, but it’s less of a threat than the man who shouts about having a gun.

It's also less of a threat than the man who shouts about having a nuclear warhead, while we're fabricating ad absurdums.
posted by invitapriore at 1:44 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Another thing to consider when thinking about calling 911 is that even a good, safe, positive outcome in the moment can later be used as evidence to evict the victim of a crime. As an example, Maplewood, MO uses calls to 911 about certain addresses, even if the occupants are victims of crime, as a pretext to revoke their occupancy permit.

Which resonates with this tweet thread explaining how white folks calling 911 over every silly little thing is a gentrification tactic.

White people move into a majority black/poc neighbourhood, start calling cops over every day behaviour that annoys them and it's one more way in which the original inhabitants of a neighbourhood are harassed away from it.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:52 AM on May 11 [30 favorites]


I am increasingly uneasy with the admonition for people to just suck it up for noise complaints. Sometimes it isn't "just one night" of lost sleep, after all, and people should be allowed to bloody sleep.

However, the idea of calling 911 for a noise complaint seems bizarre to me anyway. Possibly because I live somewhere where there is a non-emergency line instead, for things like noise or parking violation or whatever. And maybe that serves a dual purpose - the 311 non-emergency people have the training to know when something is a legit problem and when something is "fussy neighbor who just needed to vent", and filters the call accordingly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


That means that if you call the cops in a situation bad enough that someone is arrested as a result, there might be a one in four thousand chance someone is going to end up dead. It's extremely misleading to say that "If you call the cops, there is a very good chance that someone is going to end up dead."

Congratulations to the cops on being more deadly per 911 call than the deadliest non-disease event we have, because your odds of dying in a car crash are only one in 6700. This would also make the cops 250 times deadlier than plane crashes, lightning, and flesh-eating bacteria.
posted by Copronymus at 2:18 AM on May 11 [28 favorites]


Just that the specific racist habit of skittishly avoiding black men at night, or whatever, was never taught to me, and pretty clearly would have been if I'd been knowingly raised as a girl.

Easy way to not be racist: just skittishly avoid ALL men!

I got taught the white-boy bad habit of treating black men as harsh arbiters of cool and toughness, and thus as threats to my status

I never heard anyone really articulate this so simply before, and it does resonate, and explains why certain white men go all weird around black guys sometimes, putting on accents and gestures that as a white woman acquaintance of theirs I'd never normally seen them do.


See also: Atlanta, Season 2, Episode 9 "North of the Border"
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:59 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Arguments about when you should call police seem irrelevant to me here, because none of these situations are at all cases where they should be called. Who calls the police because they clearly hate another grad student, for example? Or because someone who you know is sleeping in an inappropriate place? The only answer in all these cases is racists. Often well educated ones who have been spending time with the liberal arts.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:10 AM on May 11 [10 favorites]


Or what you consider an inappropriate place....
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:11 AM on May 11


obXKCD

Mobile phone cameras proved to the world that bigfoot isn't real, but also that racism is.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:16 AM on May 11 [13 favorites]


(Instead, I got taught the white-boy bad habit of treating black men as harsh arbiters of cool and toughness, and thus as threats to my status. Which is its own brainfuck to unlearn...)

Just seconding that I've never seen this articulated so simply and clearly before. One of those things I'm going to notice out in the world more now that I can put words to it, thanks.
posted by naju at 4:06 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


It's also less of a threat than the man who shouts about having a nuclear warhead, while we're fabricating ad absurdum.

What makes you think that's an ad absurdum?

This is America. "Shut up or I'll shoot you!" is a totally conceivable threat.

Overall, the statement that she'd call the police -- factual or a threat -- seems to have been the best thing to do in that situation. The man who was angry was clearly not quite angry enough to not care about the consequences of getting the police involved; in fact, the woman shouting that she'd call the police clearly de-escalated the conflict, in ways that insulting him almost certainly would not.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 4:50 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]




The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?

It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.

I am so sorry, so, so sorry.


(From Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine)
posted by drlith at 5:56 AM on May 11 [20 favorites]


"less than" is colloquial but really common as shorthand for inequalities.

there has been no FPP on the van attack in Toronto

An FPP isn't a comprehensive measure of significance, but this was thoroughly covered in the US, at least on NPR and in the NYT, indeed an interesting story.

Another really interesting look into community policing is a recent New Yorker story, The Spy Who Came Home: Why an expert in counterterrorism became a beat cop. The subject of the story realized that both military law enforcement in general have very poor understandings of how to work with community members, and it begets unnecessary violence and inefficient policing. Despite (or because of) his abundant experience on the streets in Iraq, he's also the last to draw his gun in group scenarios.
posted by Miko at 5:59 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


The one time I called the cops on someone, I was honestly concerned for their life. An out of control teenage white daughter of a neighbor had been running with some very bad boys and over the year progressed from just being a loud asshole teenager to actively bringing young men into her home who were armed and dealt drugs. Most of the boys where little wannabe white boy thugs but she did have a crew of Black boys that lived in the neighborhood who hung out with her towards the end. Shortly after the Black boys started showing up her mom kicked her out and told us all to call if we saw anything suspicious because she was afraid that her daughter or one of the boys she ran with would try to hurt her or the girl's younger sister. Prior to the mother's request, my husband and I had a policy of just going out and talking to the kids about being quiet or more respectful. The white boys were the ones who were the most likely to talk back or posture in a threatening manner, and the weekend before all this went down, the kids where in the street screaming at each other and I went out and asked them if everything was okay. One of the white boys started to mouth off, but his Black friend told him to chill and apologized for their noise.

The night after the mom requested we call in any problems, I glanced out my living room window to see a person climbing into the front window of my neighbors house and called the mom to see if she was home or had locked herself out. The mom said no, and call the cops. So I did.

The police arrived, the kids fled, there were helicopters and tons of drama and then one of the kids shot a cop in the face while fleeing.

Within less than 24 hours, the young Black man who shot the cop had been gunned down a street away from our house and the girl and her other friends were in custody. The cop survived, but the young man did not. And while I understand completely that he made all his own decisions, I cannot but feel responsible for both the cop's injury and the young man's death. If I had not called the cops on a kid sneaking back into her house with her bad choice friends, maybe that young man would have had a chance to make different decisions.

Every time I think about calling the cops since then, which is massively rare, I think of that young man and wonder if he'd outgrown his bad choices if given the chance. And then I don't call.
posted by teleri025 at 7:04 AM on May 11 [16 favorites]


The same outcome could have been achieved by shouting "WOULD YOU TWO NOODLEBRAINS PLEASE SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLES" and it would have made instead for an amusing anecdote

[...]

“Do you want me to call the cops?” may be a threat, but it’s less of a threat than the man who shouts about having a gun.


I'm confused as to why you brought a gun into my anecdote when there was none.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:06 AM on May 11 [13 favorites]


Or because someone who you know is sleeping in an inappropriate place? The only answer in all these cases is racists.

Joe in Australia talked upthread about how he used to see laws, and I think it's worth repeating and digging into:
I used to think that these seldom-enforced laws were basically exhortative: don't pick the flowers, they're there for everyone! Don't litter, it makes the place look dirty! Don't sell single cigarettes, it makes it hard to track tax revenue! Things like this, though, make me think that these laws don't reflect our fear of the consequences as much as the desire to police people
But I think that many people are ignorant of how these laws are enforced, all the time, against the poor and others that authorities believe are not part of the community. Laws against sleeping in an inappropriate place are enforced all the time against the homeless. The subway, for example - it's a public space all are allowed to enter, you must even pay to enter it - but the police routinely roll through waking people up - and homeless people, they will often charge. They probably won't charge someone who 'looks like a student just taking a nap' - but the thing that gives them the ability to charge the people they feel are inappropriate is the law against sleeping on public transit. Yes, they are choosing people they feel "look homeless" and there is often racial bias in that assessment, but why is it generally considered okay to disproportionately enforce the law only against the most vulnerable?

And the answer is, "for the comfort of the other citizens." The laws exist, despite the fact that they are unjust - for who feels it is just to arrest someone, to bring them away at gunpoint and lock them in a cage, for the crime of sleeping in an inappropriate place? - because they enable the broad mass of people to have a slightly more comfortable experience in their everyday life.

And I think, when I think of that, as I often do, of those who walk away from Omelas.
posted by corb at 7:57 AM on May 11 [22 favorites]


I know this has been noted upthread, but that cookout one in Oakland is just appalling. What an awful person that woman is. She stands there for TWO FRIGGING HOURS at these people's cookout, and then starts crying and sobbing and hyperventilating, FFS, when the police show up because they're harassing her? Her whole performance is just a stunning pageant of entitlement and hatefulness.
posted by holborne at 8:16 AM on May 11 [13 favorites]




She stands there for TWO FRIGGING HOURS at these people's cookout, and then starts crying and sobbing and hyperventilating, FFS, when the police show up because they're harassing her? Her whole performance is just a stunning pageant of entitlement and hatefulness.

About the Weary Weaponizing of White Women Tears
How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour
posted by zombieflanders at 8:24 AM on May 11 [21 favorites]


A lot of these articles are pointing out that we can't expect the cops to de-escalate (although they should) when we are calling them as an act of escalation to get our way.

I seriously wonder quite often if: I was acting in accordance with my training/SOP is the new version of: I was just following orders.

If you train yourself to kill someone in an way that is automatic, thoughtless and unchecked and you never morally question such training, you are training yourself to murder people with premeditation. Hopefully the situation or misunderstanding that starts the unceasing chain of overreaction and escalation will not occur, but that doesn't mean you haven't engaged in a process that's morally flawed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:59 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


For those who treat police as customer service, I genuinely want to know where that idea was inculcated in your upbringing, what moment(s) in your childhood crystallized to you that the police are here for your own personal edification and to cater to your minor inconveniences and service requests and petty complaints, etc.

If you live in a wealthy white suburb, the police treat you differently. The police are people who will pull your parents over for speeding, see that your father is drunk and tell your mother to drive home the rest of the way-- or give them a police escort. They are not just paraded as Office Friendly one day at school; they interact with you frequently. They do in fact act like they work for you much of the time. I am not sure how people can grow up holding onto that impression, but I think that is part of the way prejudice works-- through attachments that you form early on that are for some reason hard to override with evidence, no matter how real.
posted by BibiRose at 11:02 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]




Damon Young: ‘Calling the Police’ Is White People’s AppleCare for Black People
[...]I strongly doubt that Braasch felt a genuine fear for her life. Just how I don’t believe that the white woman who called the police on the men in that Philly Starbucks did, or even that the white woman who harassed the men in Oakland, Calif., for #CookingOutWhileBlack did. Instead, they all felt uncomfortable. And not necessarily a discomfort that comes with mortal fear, but the way you might feel uncomfortable or annoyed if your Spotify playlist keeps crashing or if your new MacBook Pro can’t connect to your home Wi-Fi. For them—and for (too many) white people, in general—the police serve a similar function.

They’re annoyed that a product they purchased (America) or a subscription they signed up for (whiteness) isn’t working quite how they envisioned it. Perhaps there’s spyware (black people) that’s bothering them or an error message (black people doing something) they can’t get rid of. So they call customer service (cops) to fix the problem (us).

Unfortunately, white people don’t just believe that the police are their personal AppleCare for black people. It’s the truth. That seems to be their primary function: to remove black people from spaces where a white person doesn’t believe we’re supposed to be. Which I guess means that the only solution is to keep crashing the system. And by “keep crashing the system” I mean “buy a Chromebook.”
posted by zombieflanders at 11:53 AM on May 11 [27 favorites]


For a years I found myself stopped by the police a lot. Sometimes the pretense was manufactured ("we thought we smelled marijuana as your car went by", which is always funny given that I've never used or possessed any in my life), sometimes it was thin ("we thought something seemed odd about the way you walked across the parking lot"), sometimes it was just barely a traffic violation. Always they were obviously fishing for something else they earnestly believed they would find. Sometimes they got hostile and determined when they didn't find it and encounters would draw out. I just started assuming every time I saw a law enforcement vehicle that I was likely to be pulled over and grilled while they ran checks for warrants or past arrests and looked into my car for signs of anything and perhaps asked to step over here and be searched. They always found nothing. They were sometimes obviously confused. I don't know what profile I fit for them to this day (the cars I drove? maybe a scruffy appearance? where I was living? keeping odd hours?), but it was clear that I fit some profile, because I was getting all kinds of police attention even when I wasn't doing anything wrong.

After a while, the stops became almost routine for me... but not quite, and there was an upwardly-sloped floor to the anxiety they produced. Sure, I'd navigated/weathered past encounters, but was this going to be the time that I got a hostile officer whose hostility erupted into either informal violence or an actual arrest, even if none was warranted? What privileges I have didn't keep me from extra police scrutiny and even harassment (and they certainly were not my personal AppleCare). But I've had cause to consider that those privileges may well have kept me from being injured, arrested, or killed.

In general I stopped wondering what someone had done when I saw police detaining others, and started wondering if they'd done anything at all. And calling the police for something "odd" or "suspicious" has seemed out of the question ever since. "Dangerous" is the threshold for consideration, now: I've still made calls to law enforcement when I've seen vehicles being driven by someone apparently either under the influence or otherwise not in control. I might make a call if I see a situation that's turned violent or if there's a stated credible threat of violence. But even these no longer seem like simple calculations they used to.
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:38 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


#RentingWhileBlack: Mother of 3 Loses Apartment Because She Didn't Provide Her Landlord an Ultrasound Photo

JFC
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:39 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Several nights ago my wife heard two guys out on the sidewalk in front of our house, arguing loudly, at 4:30 in the morning. Our dog - big Lab/Shepherd mix, generally fairly sweet - was going crazy, barking and growling. Unusual for her. I woke up, bleary, stumbled downstairs. The argument had moved on and was not in front of our house anymore. I let the dog out the back because she now wanted to chase something in the yard, and went to the front of the house again to turn on the lights and look outside. As I did, a police officer was walking up my driveway.

Turned out that my wife had called the police, and I didn't know that because I was downstairs when she did. The two officers who turned up were younger guys, very friendly, and once we had established that my house wasn't being burgled or anything, they encouraged us to call any time we thought there was a disturbance: "That's what we're here for. We don't mind at all."

That surely reinforces the customer service mindset, for the white folks to whom they say it. (My wife and I are middle aged suburban white people.)

For the first time in my life I was conflicted that we had called the police. It was redundant by the time I went downstairs, since the arguing parties had left our sidewalk. Besides which, I have always figured that if someone was going to break into my house they would probably try to be quiet-like about it.

Never gave calling the police a moment's thought before, but I've been doing a lot of reading and listening of late.
posted by sockshaveholes at 12:51 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]


I’ve been following this thread, and thinking. A couple of months ago I saw a young black woman in a historically black neighborhood who seemed to be having a manic break. Laughing as she messed up outdoor stalls, running barefoot, blood on her leg. A couple of people, all of them unequipped to deal with a mental health crisis, tried to intervene, ask if she was ok. She ran off at full speed, laughing hysterically. We all sort of looked at each other helplessly.

She needed help. I don’t know if she got it. I doubt it. Because no one wants to call 911 on a young black woman in crisis. Because I bet everyone on that street for that particular moment made the same calculation: can I be sure she’ll be in less danger?

No. Of course not. Later my therapist disagreed; “you need to call, she’s a target.” Well, yeah. But we all wondered if it be calling down certain hell, to call the police. Whether that was accurate or the right call in that scenario, I don’t know. But we weren’t crazy for wondering. For feeling helpless, because the people you’re supposed to be able to call for help — yup, I’m white — cannot be trusted.

This is not sustainable. I don’t know where we go from here, but this is not sustainable.

And god fucking dammit, but white people who call the police because they are uncomfortable and then claim that they were “afraid for their lives” should be taken at their word, and hauled in for a goddamn psychiatric review. The FUCK. If you’re afraid for your life because black people are enjoying themselves in your vicinity, maybe we should assume you don’t have such a good grasp on reality, you know?
posted by schadenfrau at 1:10 PM on May 11 [20 favorites]


Later my therapist disagreed; “you need to call, she’s a target.”

Tell your therapist about what happened to Charleena Lyles.
posted by palomar at 1:21 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


Like wildblueyonder, I fit some kind of profile, would get stopped by the cops for anything and nothing, pulled for extra scrutiny at the airport. I walked into a new flower shop in my neighborhood to check out their selections one day and after five minutes was told by a screaming florist "Get out! I've called the cops!" One lucky night I was taken to jail because I was sitting next to a couple of friends who were smoking dope. Lucky, because 2 cops responded and the first one didn't like my looks at all and decided he was going to "Take me in." Which freaked out the other one so much, he took me in instead. I knew I had just missed a beating or worse. I know if I had been black, I would not have missed out on the fun.
posted by evilDoug at 2:25 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


She needed help. I don’t know if she got it. I doubt it. Because no one wants to call 911 on a young black woman in crisis. Because I bet everyone on that street for that particular moment made the same calculation: can I be sure she’ll be in less danger?

It's worth noting that mental health crises are something that we probably wouldn't want handled by the police even if we had functional police forces in this country.

Asking cops to be psych first responders is like asking kindergarten teachers to be armed security officers: ad-hoc, misguided, and totally ineffective. Wrangling mentally ill people in crisis (or, more often, shooing them off and hoping they become someone else's problem) is something that got added to the police job description when we as a country gave up on providing proper mental health care. It shouldn't ever have been part of that job description — police training doesn't prepare you for it, and the mindset that police work requires isn't conducive to it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:44 PM on May 11 [15 favorites]


For those who treat police as customer service, I genuinely want to know where that idea was inculcated in your upbringing, what moment(s) in your childhood crystallized to you that the police are here for your own personal edification and to cater to your minor inconveniences and service requests and petty complaints, etc.

There's no one moment. I grew up in a 99% white area to middle class parents, and am now a middle aged white guy who is even more wealthy than that. Police have basically always been helpful and courteous to me. I have never had a bad experience. I was never afraid of the police. They have never stopped me or searched me or anything, except for a couple speeding tickets. I often get a "hello" and a nod/smile.

Even when I was caught breaking the law, I was treated nicely. The story: I had accidentally left a switchblade (a souvenir from Germany from when I was a teenager) in my carryon bag. In California, this is an illegal weapon and can result in jail time. TSA found it in the scanner and pulled the local police over. They asked me some questions, and then let me get on my plane (sans knife). The lawyer I hired got the DA to drop all charges. Nothing happened, I was not taken to jail (actually this part surprised even my lawyer) or booked or arrested or anything. They were polite while asking me questions about the knife and did not seem to seriously think I was any kind of danger. (This was a particular moment that revealed the depth of my privilege, as I was quite aware how different this could have gone if I was black, or Muslim, or whatever). All this despite the fact that there was no real question I was guilty of possessing the item.

Now --- when I was in high school, I would have thought nothing of calling the police if I had a problem. After I moved to a big city and started to have friends of other races and socioeconomic backgrounds, I started to understand the police were viewed very differently, and treated people very differently. And of course by now this is abundantly clear.

I would no longer call police so cavalierly. If there is, say, a mass shooting in progress, sure. But for petty stuff I would avoid the police because I don't trust them as a group. That said, I still basically "trust" that I personally will be treated well. I don't fear them myself, but I am afraid of what they will do to others.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:21 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


And here's video of Georgia Cops Assualting a 65-Year-Old Diabetic Grandmother (Black) for allegedly not staying in her lane while driving.

My parents just made a long roadtrip to visit me. My father is a 75 year-old Black man. My mother confessed that she was terrified the whole ride up that he'd get pulled over on a traffic stop and the cops would kill him for no reason. So yeah, the fear and distrust of cops is very, VERY real for some specific groups in American society and it would be great if we didn't have to have any further musings about "But how dangerous is it really to call 911" or "I'm a white person who's never had a problem with police!"
posted by TwoStride at 4:27 PM on May 11 [21 favorites]


I've called the police twice in my life. Once on a roommate who was screaming and threatening me and breaking things (not the first time he had done it. It was a very messy situation). And once when a man exited his vehicle to scream at me and try to break my window because I was yielding on a green to turn left. He then tailgated me. Then when my husband walked to where I was to also see if he was still there, he screamed racial slurs at my husband (my husband is white/Italian.)That man had actually been removed by police from my husband's place of work in the past.

I am a petite woman and was terrified. Both those men were white. The nonchalance that the police approached these men is a stark contrast to when 7 cars and a helicopter show up for possible burglary.

In my situation there were threats of bodily harm. Both these men barely were spoken to. Yet, somehow a woman sleeping in her dorm common room requires an interrogation?

My husband and I have both had to consider how we approach calling police. At what point is our safety in danger enough? I'm in UT which is mostly white. But we BOTH have developed a fear that they will do more harm than good for ourselves as well - myself being disabled and my husband being a broad shoulder barrel-chested olive skinned man.

I know this has been going on since the beginning of time. But it CANNOT continue. In what world is it okay to treat humans this way with a literal chokehold or pulling out your gun for possible stolen mentos or kicking someone in the head or shooting them for holding a phone.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:55 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


First, let me say that I will not call the police unless I believe that someone is in imminent danger of physical harm.* But I have seen this article posted several times, including this thread - What To Do Instead of Calling the Police - and it doesn't actually answer the question, nor do the linked resources I've read. (Most of the articles just explain why the police are bad.)

What do you do when you hear a heated argument and you're not sure if it's going to escalate to violence? What do you do if you see someone slashing tires or throwing rocks through windows? In the moment, you can't build a time machine and organize a neighborhood watch group.

*When I was younger and worked at a gas station, I called the police on a customer who was too drunk to walk a straight line. He was arrested for OWI and the cop said he had other warrants out on him. He was white but I would have done the same regardless and I still would because OWI is imminent danger and I cannot physically restrain a person.
posted by AFABulous at 6:53 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


What To Do Instead of Calling the Police - and it doesn't actually answer the question, nor do the linked resources I've read. (Most of the articles just explain why the police are bad.)

That's been my experience as well.

There's no excuse for calling the police because somebody is doing a compeltely normal thing but doing it while black. People who do that are assholes who are endangering those around them for no good reason. But there isn't really a good alternative to calling the police in some situations. The best rule of thumb seems to be "is the risk of something bad happening to an innocent person higher if I call the police or if I don't call the police". It's not always possible to know the answer to that question but you can generally make at least a guess. And then act accordingly.
posted by Justinian at 7:23 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Reasons I would call 911 - someone really needs a paramedic to stay alive, there’s a fire, someone has broken into my house, someone is screaming for help and I can see they need help and I can’t help them myself, I need a police report for insurance reasons (car accident, burglary, etc).

People arguing or someone doing something bad but they will run away before the cops show up or anything else? There’s nothing to be gained. If people want to slug it out that’s really none of my business.
posted by bleep at 7:24 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


I am white but my dad came from another country and told us a few times to never get involved with the police if you can help it. I never got that “customer service” idea.
posted by bleep at 7:26 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


I was involved in a car accident a few months ago. The other driver (also a white middle class guy) called the police for insurance reasons. We were on the shoulder of an interstate in a white area. The sheriff's deputy was white. No one was upset or injured and there was only minor damage to the car. So, about as low risk a situation as you can have, but I was still nervous and I didn't say anything to the cop except confirm which car I was driving. The other driver did all the talking of his own accord (and said nothing I needed to correct).

I grew up thinking the cops were the good guys and I came to believe that they were only the "good guys" towards me, and people like me.

I find it especially interesting that as a white trans woman I don't feel like I got that bit of socialization. Not that I'm not racist — I definitely am, in lots of other concrete and abstract ways. Just that the specific racist habit of skittishly avoiding black men at night, or whatever, was never taught to me, and pretty clearly would have been if I'd been knowingly raised as a girl.

As a trans man, who was raised as a girl, I didn't get the explicit message that black men were scarier than white men but rather that certain neighborhoods were off limits (surprise, they were mostly black). Whether presenting as female or male, I've only once been frightened of men who are black, when a group catcalled me and when I rejected them, followed me down a deserted street and berated me. As an adult, black men - as a group - are the nicest (or at least most neutral) to me. Nicer than women, and not in a flirty or deferential or patronizing way. I was on the bus today and a black guy around my age (43) just started chitchatting with me. I feel like I missed a memo on why I'm supposed to be afraid of them. Except for that one incident, every man who has scared me has been white.
posted by AFABulous at 8:59 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I'm really good at passing for a well-to-do cis straight white dude. But I'm not. I'm half Chinese, I'm unemployed (but land rich), I'm trans, intersex, nonbinary. I'm invisibly disabled. I have, in 9/11 times, been significantly profiled and separated out for special treatment. I carry with me very bad luck but reasonably good social skills. I often have privilege and sometimes I just don't. Sometimes it evaporates like the morning dew, and with no warning.

So I don't call the cops in general, and as a rule, for anything less than imminent risk of death or on behalf of someone else who is wholly incapacitated. Because the cops don't fix things any more, or at least can't be trusted to consistently fix things in the US any more. And I mentioned my bad luck because even though it hasn't happened yet, I fear that I'll get a bully cop who profiles me as the bad actor. Because once that happens, especially if he sees the clues that I'm not white, or not normative, I can count on a beating or worse. And once it starts going that way, I fear there'll be no one there to witness it, or speak up for me, or save me.

Which brings me to one thing I think white folks who call the cops for various excusable reasons should do: stick around. Observe. Make sure first responders, especially cops, know you're watching. Maybe use the ACLU's special no-take-backsies video app so that if they seize your phone the recording will go to backup storage. Maybe make sure they know that you aren't giving tacit approval to their white-supremacy-enforcing ways. Make sure they know you're watching and you'll report on them if they do anything inappropriate, illegal, or murderous.
posted by kalessin at 10:23 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance
Exclusive: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a secretive US effort to track so-called ‘black identity extremists’
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:22 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


As far as "what to do instead of calling the police," I think there's frankly no good answer. A lot of these situations (a heated argument in the next apartment that sounds on the edge of violence, someone doing wanton property damage in plain view) it should be OK to call the police. Ostensibly, the police exist to shut down such situations, make sure nobody gets hurt, and set the wheels of justice moving in an appropriate direction. Sadly, in the real world that is all too often not what they do, and a bad situation ends up getting much, much worse once the police become involved.

There isn't necessarily an alternative solution available, and that's a failing of our society. People can and do get hurt when citizens are unwilling to invoke law enforcement for fear that the response will be worse than the original crime. In the long term this could be solved by improving policing, but in the short term it just sucks.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:26 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]




Are raisins in potato salad a real thing? That's not the first time I've seen the reference, but are they common or notorious or just a sort of hypothetical Bad Idea, like green pea hummus?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:18 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Are raisins in potato salad a real thing?

You never know what diabolical things Karen is gonna add to make her potato salad "unique."

(and yes, I've seen raisins and other things at Whole Foods-like stores which try to get waaay too fancy)
posted by TwoStride at 7:30 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Ricochetbiscuit, I'm sorry to dissapoint you but the minute I heard about the van attack and it wasn't followed immediately by a report that the police had killed the attacker and nobody was calling him a terrorist, I knew he'd be white. Yes. He has a non-white name. But he has pale skin. From afar he passes. That's why the much-lauded police officer didn't kill him.
posted by windykites at 4:41 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


If only: Black People, Call 1-800-Too-Wite, Report Suspicious White Meddlers
“1-800-TOO-WITE operator, what’s your non-emergency?”

“Hi, I’m sitting in the lobby of my condo building on LaSalle Street waiting to meet a friend and there’s a suspicious-looking white person eyeballing me. I’m pretty sure he’s about to call you and say I’m loitering. Just wanted to let you know everything’s fine and he’s just racist.”

“OK, we’ll make a note of it. Thanks for calling. You helped us avoid a real embarrassing mess.”

posted by TwoStride at 5:12 AM on May 13 [14 favorites]


Oh man. That is fucking great. It would even give not terrible white people an outlet for their need to call someone and meddle. From the article:
“1-800-TOO-WITE operator, what’s your non-emergency?”

“Hi, I’m white, but not like the crazy kind of white. I’m at a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue and there’s a suspicious white lady here who looks like she’s about to call the cops on a group of black businesswomen.”

“Why do you think that, sir?”

“I just heard her complain to the manager because the women were laughing.”

“Oh dear. Yes, I’m sure she’ll be calling. We’ll send a squad car immediately to make sure no officers go within 100 yards of the Starbucks until those black women have had time to enjoy their coffee and leave.”

“Great. Thanks so much. And I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“I don’t know. Everything.”
posted by schadenfrau at 6:29 AM on May 13 [17 favorites]


I mean, really though. I think what I find most depressing about the news coverage of these incidents is the focus on the point of origin of the racism — the manager, etc — rather than the fucking police. It’s pretty fucking racist to react to a report of “there’s two black men in a Starbucks” with anything other than “so the fuck what?” And the police are, God help us, the arbiters of state violence.

Although it shouldn’t surprise me, I guess. Even with every shooting, the news coverage isn’t asking about the racism of the police. It’s easier and it feels good to shame the fuck out of an individual terrible white person; confronting the racism of the police is hard and terrifying for a number of reasons.

(Also I hope the black grad student is able to file a fucking harassment claim against the racist white grad student who evidently routinely harasses black people. How the fuck is Miss Hostile Work Environment allowed on fucking campus?)
posted by schadenfrau at 6:46 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]


Report from the Listening session for Yale students. Some good questions being raised about whether the white woman should be allowed to teach given her demonstrated biases...

And I am fine with keeping the focus on the white shit-stirrers in the first place. I mean, the police are called and they have to answer. Where we we should criticize the police is for them doing anything other than saying "this is not an issue and you are a bad person" and leaving immediately when they realize it's just a racist caller.
posted by TwoStride at 7:07 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]


I mean, the police are called and they have to answer.

No, they really, really don’t, and they frequently /don’t/ answer when they think it’s not important enough. Call in a bicycle theft, and they’ll tell you to come down to the station and make a report because they can’t be bothered. But call in someone possibly affronting the wealthy or upper middle class? They’ll be there as fast as their little cars can carry them.
posted by corb at 7:26 AM on May 13 [14 favorites]


No, they really, really don’t

There's even SCOTUS precedent saying they don't.
posted by PMdixon at 7:38 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I mean, yes, you're absolutely right about the class implications in response time, but bicycle theft is a bit of a false equivalence. They don't often respond to something like bike theft because the report is "the bike is gone." They're not gonna come out and CSI the bike rack or whatever. But when the call is "there is a disturbance" then I do have some sympathy for the cops--particularly campus cops--who have to weight PR disasters no matter which way they go. So I'd rather critice them for showing up and being assholes (arresting the Starbucks guys, wasting the Yale student's time for 20 minutes and sending 3-4 cops to do so, etc) than further playing up the idea that the cops should totally be making judgement calls based just on a phonecall. (Alternative terrible example: the lazy 911 respondant and cops who thought the kid in Ohio who was trapped and suffocating in his own minivan was making a prank call, so they didn't hurry over and didn't search very hard for his minivan).
posted by TwoStride at 7:39 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


I do have some sympathy for the cops--particularly campus cops--who have to weight PR disasters no matter which way they go.

I don't. Because it's their fucking job and they're empowered by society to commit violence without real consequence.
posted by PMdixon at 7:49 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]


They don't often respond to something like bike theft because the report is "the bike is gone." They're not gonna come out and CSI the bike rack or whatever.

If you report the theft of a 100K car, I guarantee the response is not going to be “the car is gone”. They will put out an APB, see if security camera footage or witnesses exist, work hard to find out who it was. Because to them, that’s a Real Problem.

A bicycle for many people is their primary mode of transportation. It prevents them from getting to work in many cases if it is stolen. But because the police come from a class where a bicycle is a fun hobby, they don’t take it as seriously as they do the theft of a car where they are morally outraged.
posted by corb at 10:04 AM on May 13 [12 favorites]


Um well also car theft is a felony whereas bike theft isn't, so let's not get too far in the weeds here
posted by agregoli at 11:04 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Later my therapist disagreed; “you need to call, she’s a target.”

It's very illustrative when you fill in the unstated parts: "you need to call [the police], she's a target [of the police]."
posted by naju at 12:11 PM on May 13


Um well also car theft is a felony whereas bike theft isn't

I know more than a couple of people whose bikes are worth more than my car, and I have zero doubt that they’d get less effort from the cops than I would if our rides were stolen.
posted by Etrigan at 12:57 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


Saying "theft of a car is a felony, theft of a bike is only a misdemeanour, so it's less serious" just begs the question: it's only a misdemeanour because we have decided that it's less serious. That might be a totally valid collective decision, but we have to recognise that it's our decision and not a physical law.

Also, police aren't obliged to weight the resources spent on a report according to the potential seriousness of the alleged misdeed, and in most cases they don't. They sent a bunch of cops to deal with the alleged trespassers in Starbucks because they view that as being consequential. They probably wouldn't have sent so many officers with the same alacrity for a private person with a similar complaint.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:22 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


Yeah, a white woman spit on my (non-white) child, and despite my fancy address the police DNGAF. Police have discretion, and there’s no doubt whose behalf they use it on.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:50 PM on May 13 [18 favorites]


Jesus, snickerdoodle. I’m sorry.

It's very illustrative when you fill in the unstated parts: "you need to call [the police], she's a target [of the police]."

Yeah, I mean. My therapist is a WOC who’s lived and worked in NYC her entire life, much of it at NYC hospitals. She knows about the police, and about white people being terrible. More than I do, that’s for sure. In the situation I described, she would have called 911, because her assessment is that a black woman in that sort of crisis is a target for essentially all men, and 911 would be the least bad option.

But the point of the anecdote is that that’s not a given. That even in that extreme situation, there’s no right thing to do, because the police have lost all public trust.

I still don’t know what I should have done. I think about that woman all the time.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:33 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the additional explanation. On further thought I take back that criticism of what she said.
posted by naju at 3:01 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I knew someone would say some bikes are worth more than some cars. That is not usually the case, which is why car theft is a more serious crime monetarily. This is a separate point from the issue of police devaluing people because of race or class. We don't value a stolen object by how important it is to to the person it was stolen from, is all I was saying.
posted by agregoli at 5:40 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


How on earth have we gone from "white people's comfort is worth more than black people's lives" to "cars are worth more than bikes"?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:56 AM on May 14 [8 favorites]


An argument was proffered that police cannot choose which cases they respond to. The counter-argument was "not only can they do this, they do it all the time, e.g. cases of bike theft are rarely investigated". The ensuing back-and-forth seems to agree that police decide what cases to respond to based on class markers in addition to racial ones, with the primary point of contention being whether or not this is actually just.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:03 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Boston Police Surrounded Us At A Cemetery Based On A False Tip:
There’s a difference between being uncomfortable and feeling unsafe, a nuance that white people haven’t seemed to grasp yet. Black people have more than enough experience feeling both simultaneously, especially when we’re surrounded and interrogated by the police force. When white people call in tips fueled by their own inherent racist biases, they go unpunished and the court system upholds their actions by refusing to set concrete legislation when it comes to false or exaggerated tips. Are our bodies not worth repercussion when put in harm’s way? Are our bodies not even worth slapping these people with a monetary fine?

This what I was trying to get at before the bike derail--we absolutely cannot just focus on the police half of the equation here. There need to be consequences for the white people who keep pulling this shit.
posted by TwoStride at 10:31 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


This what I was trying to get at before the bike derail--we absolutely cannot just focus on the police half of the equation here. There need to be consequences for the white people who keep pulling this shit.

Yeah, but this is sort of a chicken and the egg kind of thing. I think you can already be prosecuted for making a false report to the police (or possibly even for making a false report to 911? I think?), but they can't prosecute if the actual complaint is "there are some black people existing" and the police go "OH MY GOD WE'LL BE RIGHT THERE."

Like what?

If these white people are lying, great, that is actionable, fucking throw the book at them. But they don't even have to lie. They don't have to commit a crime to leverage the power of the state and their own privilege. And that is a problem you cannot solve without addressing the police. Talking about one without the other doesn't make any sense.

But God, would I love to see some of these white people prosecuted. I hope this is on the radar of the new slate of progressive DAs.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:38 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


But God, would I love to see some of these white people prosecuted.

I think there should absolutely be prosecution for malicious police-targeting, 100%. But the thing is - what do you do, how do you prosecute someone, for calling the enforcer of the laws on the violators of the laws, based on your suspicion that they wouldn't have called in another violator of the law?

The problem goes beyond the police or the people calling it in - the problem comes when you have bullshit laws that only exist to harm people that don't fit into society. There's no reason the police should be able to jail you for grilling in the wrong place in a park. There's no reason sleeping on a subway should be a crime.

What I would love to see is our legislatures actually weeding the books and removing 'crimes' that are actually 'minor annoyance laws'.
posted by corb at 10:47 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Naming the callers in stories would be a good start.
posted by rhizome at 11:11 AM on May 14 [15 favorites]


The various supremacies generally have no stake in weeding the books to remove minor annoyance laws. As long as institutions like the police use these laws to enforce the supremacies, they'll likely stay on the books.

I'm speaking from experience as a (queer, trans, intersex, non-binary, person of color, etc.) minority here, having many times (and ancestors who were) been at the mercy of various of these kinds of laws in order to keep me away from the favored majorities.
posted by kalessin at 12:22 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I called the cops the other weekend (the non-emergency line, not 911) because an elderly woman was sitting in the parking lot of the Waffle House we went to, in her wheelchair, in a bathrobe and baseball hat, clutching her head, in the rain. She was there when we arrived, but sitting under the canopy over the door. I don't know if they asked her to move or what, but when we left she had relocated to the middle of the parking lot.

She was white. I genuinely don't know what I should have done if she'd been a woman of color.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:12 AM on May 15


I did get a small chuckle out of this story where even the cops didn't care about some lying-ass Becky's white nonsense:
Hayes had gone to the house, which was in desperate need of a fixing up, to inspect it. It was at that point he said a woman came out of a neighboring house to demand what he was doing. Ever affable, Hayes said he readily showed the woman his investment contract which showed he had permission to work on the house, as well as the written permission he received from the homeowner.

Still, Karen the unidentified woman wouldn’t be swayed and called the police anyway.

Thankfully, in this case, the police were quick to call the woman out on her bullshit, defending Hayes right to be there.

“You keep the camera rolling. If you have any problems with her what I want you to do is call me back over here,” a white male officer reassures Hayes. “She will go to jail for that.”

The woman says something that sounds like “I’m friends with the sheriff,” but the same officer shuts her down.

“I don’t care if you’re friends with the president,” he snaps. “You’re going to let him do what he’s going to do. If you try to do anything to stop him, I’m going to take you to jail.”

“Hurry up, do it, and get out!” the woman sneers in Hayes’ direction.

Again, the cops were not having it.

“No, no. He can take his time,” a female officer chimes in.

“He can take all day,” the male officer agrees.

At Hayes’ request, and after voicing his own discomfort, the officers agree to stick around while he takes pictures of the property to ensure his safety.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:28 AM on May 15 [18 favorites]


joannemerriam, instead of the police you can call 211, which is a social services hotline, and ask them what to do. They may still tell you to call the police, I don't know. I find it strange that people would leave her in the middle of the parking lot in the rain.
posted by AFABulous at 10:53 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


zombieflanders, I can't even imagine the weird emotional whiplash Hayes must have gone through during that whole encounter. It's like if Indiana Jones dropped into the snakepit and then the cobra just handed over the location of the Ark and slithered away.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:22 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


Thanks AFABulous. I didn't know about 211 and am putting it in my phone.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:24 AM on May 15


In Portland, which is not without its problems with police and race, the automated voice that answers the police non-emergency number at least tries to divert any call about homeless folks to a special hotline for homelessness issues.
posted by msalt at 12:56 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Again, the cops were not having it.

“No, no. He can take his time,” a female officer chimes in.

“He can take all day,” the male officer agrees.

At Hayes’ request, and after voicing his own discomfort, the officers agree to stick around while he takes pictures of the property to ensure his safety.
What is the German word for this feeling

Like justice served + a warm hug + the bitter reminder of how terrible people are all in one
posted by schadenfrau at 1:22 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]




Ryan Tarkowski, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police said, the incident “does not appear to have been initiated by a call from [a] member of the public.” He said the trooper asked the women for identification so that he could document who he spoke with.

So, all a trooper has to do is talk to someone and they can require "papers, please?"
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on May 15


No. While there are many Stop and ID states in America, even they require the police officer to have "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has happened/is happening/is about to happen. Otherwise they can ask, but you don't have to comply.

Of course, not complying with police requests is in itself highly suspicious—especially, of course, if you happen to be Black—and if you and the officer disagree about whether or not they have reasonable suspicion, you may be detained. At that point, any number of things could happen to you before you make your way in front of a judge to argue your case that the officer who asked for your ID lacked the standing to require it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:46 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Pennsylvania is not a Stop and ID state, by the way. Even if detained or arrested, you can refuse to identify yourself. That doesn't mean the police will just give up and go away, of course. If anything, dealing with you will take longer and they'll probably make it extra unpleasant because you're resisting them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:48 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The Root apparently has identified the woman who called the cops on the people having a cookout in Oakland.
posted by droplet at 5:01 PM on May 15


That ID seems kind of tenuous. It's based on requiring you to "imagine this person only with a couple inches shorter hair and a couple years older", and that can be an imprecise exercise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:20 PM on May 15


She looks very similar (we don't know when the pic was taken), and she has the same last name as is listed in the police report, and she lives/works in the Bay Area.... How much evidence is enough?
posted by AFABulous at 5:42 PM on May 15


I dunno, depends what you're gonna do with it? People's lives have been ruined because of mistaken identities. I'd hate to have an entire city be pissed at me because I look a lot like someone who did a shitty thing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:46 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


I mean, they do look a lot like each other. I missed where it said they shared a last name. But even if they do… maybe they're sisters? But even if it is the Barbeque Nazi, what is an appropriate thing to actually do with that info?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:51 PM on May 15


How much evidence is enough?

Because this always works so well for Reddit
posted by schadenfrau at 8:02 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


What makes you think that's an ad absurdum?

This is America. "Shut up or I'll shoot you!" is a totally conceivable threat.


Per the commenter that you quoted, a gun was never explicitly involved. If you can’t see how invoking the threat of a white-supremacist state authority on whatever whim you have concerning nominal public disturbance is a deeply destructive act, I guess there’s not much more here to talk about.
posted by invitapriore at 8:24 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


from rewil's ‘performing community service while Black’ to the list of things that make you suspicious was this link to a report about a six year old being arrested for throwing a tantrum

What the fuck, America?
posted by coriolisdave at 8:30 PM on May 15


What the fuck indeed. That one startled me too, and I live here. Heads should absolutely roll. They won't, though. They never do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:51 AM on May 16


But even if it is the Barbeque Nazi, what is an appropriate thing to actually do with that info?

Shame them. Get them fired. Have this be the first thing that comes up whenever someone searches their name. Don't do anything violent, don't harass her kids or anyone peripheral to her, but there need to be consequences for fascists. Which is what she is - she is invoking the police state for racist reasons.

Why should we be concerned about the feelings of someone who risked the lives of Black people? Why should we elevate hers over the victims? What if this person was an elected official? Shouldn't they be run out of office?

She didn't make an honest mistake or have a bad day. She called the police on someone who wasn't even committing a crime - at most, violating a city ordinance - and then waited TWO HOURS while continuing to harass Black people and using the n-word.
posted by AFABulous at 7:56 AM on May 16


From coriolisdave's link, emphasis mine: The 6-year-old was initially charged as a juvenile with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property, but the police chief said at a news conference Tuesday the girl would not be charged because of her age.

Whoever made the decision to CHARGE A SIX YEAR OLD should be summarily fired because they do not have the appropriate judgment to perform the duties of their job.
posted by AFABulous at 8:00 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


> But even if it is the Barbeque Nazi, what is an appropriate thing to actually do with that info?

Shame them. Get them fired. Have this be the first thing that comes up whenever someone searches their name. Don't do anything violent, don't harass her kids or anyone peripheral to her, but there need to be consequences for fascists. Which is what she is - she is invoking the police state for racist reasons.


Which is all the more reason why "we've found the name" should be based on more proof than "imagine picture A but do these changes in your head so it looks more like picture B". Because the court of public opinion is going to be doing this unofficially, and if they've got the wrong person that would really suck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 AM on May 16 [7 favorites]


Yeah, agreed. I've got no problem with a name-and-shame in principle for shit like this, but it needs to be based on solid evidence.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:24 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


There's No Cost To White People Who Call 911 About Black People. There Should Be.
Over the past few years, the country has started to realize how police too often respond to black people who haven’t committed a crime: as if they were a deadly threat. But focusing only on police conduct lets everyone else involved in these incidents off the hook.

As the political commentator Jason Johnson noted recently, “calling the police is the epitome of escalation, and calling the police on black people for non-crimes is a step away from asking for a tax-funded beatdown, if not an execution.” Johnson argues that these callers aren’t expecting cops to treat black folks politely, but instead to remind them that the consequences for making white people angry or uncomfortable could be harassment, unfair prosecution or death.

These incidents are not new. Blackness was a crime, a conviction and a life sentence for most of our history.

posted by TwoStride at 9:52 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


And here's a relatedly nasty piece of work: angry white dude threatening to call ICE on Spanish speakers he overhears. He appears to have been identified and his Yelp and Facebook ratings are taking a beating.
posted by TwoStride at 11:48 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


That one is currently blowing up, TwoStride, and I'm loving it. This asshole runs a law firm in NYC and the backlash has been so furious that the firm has already removed his photo from the online ads.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:11 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


Ana Navarro tweeted about the #midtownracist and the thread is hilarious. Also, the NYSBA commented and was basically, "we are not associated with him." LOL
posted by TwoStride at 12:32 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Which is all the more reason why "we've found the name" should be based on more proof than "imagine picture A but do these changes in your head so it looks more like picture B". Because the court of public opinion is going to be doing this unofficially, and if they've got the wrong person that would really suck.

I mean, yes. In principle, I agree.

But I won't lie, a part of me wants white people to be afraid of being steamrolled for looking the same. Because that "we've found the name" and "if you sorta squint they look the same" keeps hitting people of color time after time after time and maybe that hammer can fall on someone who doesn't have lots of melanin for once. Because it really does suck.

I'm not proud of that want. I agree, let's be a lot more exact, let's have unimpeachable proof.

But.
posted by anem0ne at 12:44 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, mugshots of every person arrested are visibly paraded across the internet all day every day.
posted by rhizome at 1:22 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


That one is currently blowing up

Oh my God that’s a satisfying google
posted by schadenfrau at 1:30 PM on May 16


So very, very satisfying.
posted by rtha at 1:45 PM on May 16


There's a saying about two wrongs that comes to mind here. Two wrongs in the hand are worth a right in the bush or something like that?
posted by tobascodagama at 1:45 PM on May 16


I mean, yes. You're right. We should have exact information if we're going to do the naming, shaming. But.

I'm not saying my gut reaction is right. Just that as much as my superego, as it were, agrees with you in principle, the id doesn't.

And the ego's caught in between, and she's seen what's happened before, what happens now, how it's generally worked out for non-white folk, and how now that white folk might be losing their untrammeled superiority and how they're behaving, she's having a very difficult time listening to the superego about being the better person. And she doesn't care if three left hands are in the bush trying to turn it right, because she's frustrated. So frustrated.

But yeah. Solid evidence. We should have that.
posted by anem0ne at 2:04 PM on May 16


In re naming and shaming: People use photos on the internet in these situations because the justice system is broken and there is no way to address what happens. There clearly needs to be consequences for phony calls to police, but we have no mechanism except the internet. It is extremely hard to get truly ironclad proof in a situation where someone who is not immediately identifiable does something awful and doesn't brag about it on the internet - you have to rely on the best proof you can get.

I don't feel like there's been a lot of misidentifications of white people in these situations - the misidentifications I can think of have been either POC in general or white people in more violent/dramatic situations.

I keep thinking of how Shaun King and his connections have been working so hard to identify the people who attacked DeAndre Harris - they haven't found all of them, and the flat fact is that if policing worked like the police claim it does, the police would be tracking these people down, or the FBI would.

I think that the way to stop doing things via internet justice - which I agree is flawed in all kinds of ways - is less by individual action than by fixing the non-internet justice system. People use the internet justice system because they don't have a better one.
posted by Frowner at 2:09 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


The bar for prosecuting people who make malicious accusations is deliberately set very high because we don't want to discourage people from coming forwards with legitimate reports. The usual example is when accusations of rape end in an acquittal: the alleged perpetrator has a huge emotional and strategic incentive to "clear their name" by pushing for their accuser to be prosecuted for making a false report.

Anyway, I understood that the barbecue lady wasn't even making a false report. This rarely-invoked law gave her a license to discriminate, so she took advantage of it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:36 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Angry lawyer dude (whose firm's facebook page appears to have been deactivated, what a shame) featured in tomorrow's NY Daily News cover.
posted by TwoStride at 5:56 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


More on NY attorney threatening to call ICE on Spanish speakers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
posted by marsha56 at 6:46 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I am constantly...not surprised, but just exhausted, by stealth racists who live and work in a diverse area and insist everything is cool and fine but who in private life are horrible. There are three recorded incidents of assholery of that dude on camera, how often has it not been recorded?
posted by corb at 5:15 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


He is apparently an equal opportunity hater. Foreign people in general, PoC, liberal white people, any Jews that have sympathy for Palestinians. Ironically, most of the far right will dismiss him as a Jew in any case.
posted by jaduncan at 5:15 AM on May 17


Not going to link to it since it's an active campaign, but someone's started a GoFundMe to send a mariachi band and taco truck to Aaron Schlossberg's office. They met and exceeded their goal in under twelve hours.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:29 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Did we cover walking your baby in the park while black yet?
posted by clawsoon at 7:09 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


The Root's coverage of stollering while black comes with a very handy flowchart of when you should call the cops on black people.
posted by TwoStride at 8:13 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]






Update on the plan to send mariachis and hold a block party (perhaps I should say, fiesta?) in front of Schlossberg's law office.

Also, in news that will surprise absolutely no one, Schlossberg is not such a tough guy when faced with (white, male) reporters.
posted by TwoStride at 11:42 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]


Schlossberg has apparently been banned from the building where he rents office space.

NO NO STOP THE HUMAN FORM CAN ONLY ABSORB SO MUCH SCHADENFREUDE
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:13 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


OK I shouldn't be deriving this much enjoyment from this:
The lawyer who threatened to call immigration enforcement on workers at a Manhattan cafe earlier this week sprinted away from an NBC News reporter earlier today
Note: This is not the same video as the umbrella video posted previously by TwoStride.

I think this might just be this guy's life now.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:14 PM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Please keep posting these, they are my kind of guilty joy.
posted by corb at 2:35 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Nuthin' guilty about it.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:45 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


This is the kind of naming and shaming and (non-violent) harassment I am in favor of. It's not going to change his racist beliefs, but he's being stripped of the ability to harm anyone else with them, and the punishment can be a deterrent to others.
posted by AFABulous at 2:50 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


lol his "office" was a rent-a-desk office share, and even they kicked him out.
posted by msalt at 7:03 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


He's a repeat offender; there's no excuse like his actions being taken out if context or him having some weird sort of breakdown (not that I generally believe those excuses). None the less, I find myself reflexively feeling sympathy for someone screwing up his life this way. Rationally, I should feel sorry for his victims, who have much less power individually and who must be legion, but apparently I've been taught to feel sorry for shouty men that aren't being respected. It's not an especially good feeling.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:26 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Yeah, you should probably get over that.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:14 AM on May 18 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: shouty men that aren't being respected
posted by msalt at 1:41 AM on May 18 [6 favorites]


He hasn't earned any respect. He's disqualified from almost all forms of respect.
posted by Miko at 8:28 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


NO NO STOP THE HUMAN FORM CAN ONLY ABSORB SO MUCH SCHADENFREUDE
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:13 PM on May 17


Ah, but we've not yet reached saturation point.

A formal complaint has now been made against Schlossberg to the New York State Bar Association.
posted by essexjan at 10:03 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


apparently I've been taught to feel sorry for shouty men that aren't being respected.

I know you already know this feeling is wrong, but I doubt you'd have one single shred of sympathy if this guy were yelling at your children or other loved ones. You'd probably chase after him yourself.
posted by AFABulous at 10:13 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile in England, a man is tased in the face by police for 'looking familiar'. The officer was acquitted, naturally.
posted by essexjan at 11:09 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


A formal complaint has now been made against Schlossberg to the New York State Bar Association.

Small correction here: the complaint was to the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Department, not the New York State Bar Association. It's a common misconception that the NYS Bar Association has some sort of power over lawyers. It doesn't. It's just a voluntary professional association -- that's it. Complaining to the the NYSBA would be like finding out that a doctor belonged to the YMCA and complaining to the YMCA about the doctor's professional conduct (not the greatest analogy, but the best one I can think of at the moment, and probably gets the idea across).
posted by holborne at 11:37 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


schlossberg is a good example of frowner's comment upthread . i think the responses he's catching are legitimate. this also shows why cop culture and cop accountability in the states sucks -- it lets bad actors dip out and go to some other place to keep acting badly.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:01 PM on May 18


I'll feel bad for people like Schlossberg when they show any sign of realizing how they are behaving.
posted by BibiRose at 12:20 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


I had to make a decision whether or not to call the police today. I was walking in a neighborhood that is 80-90% Black. I'm at a major intersection and I hear a woman screaming so I look around and don't see anything. She seems to be screaming "don't put me in the van!" which of course puts me on super high alert.

I continue to look around as I walk and I see a man and a woman, both Black, in a parking lot between buildings. The woman is only wearing a bra and has a shirt hanging off her arm (as if she was in the process of putting it on). The man is fully dressed. She's screaming at him and he's just standing there. I realize she's actually saying "just get in the van!" or "get in the fucking van." I decide I won't do anything unless he grabs or hits her or pulls out a weapon. They seem to be calming down so I go into the post office. I see a fire truck pull up (no siren, may have been a coincidence) and roll away after a few minutes. The couple is gone by the time I leave.

It was a hard call for me to make. On the one hand, I could have put people in danger who were just having a lover's spat. On the other hand, he could have done a lot of damage to her* by the time I got my phone out of my pocket and I would feel terrible if my hesitation had contributed to any injury.

*They were evenly matched in size so I suppose it could have gone either way.
posted by AFABulous at 3:58 PM on May 18


This one's a doozy:

A homeless man went to jail after a Burger King employee called the police because the man tried to pay with a $10 bill that the employee claimed was counterfeit.

It turns out the bill wasn't actually counterfeit at all, and so the man was finally released.

After three months in jail.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:09 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]


And according to the complaint document they still haven't fucking returned his $10 bill, two and a half years later.
posted by XMLicious at 10:04 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Oakland police release log of events from BBQ controversy at Lake Merritt

Not only is BBQ Becky confirmed as Jennifer Schulte, but she initially claimed to the police that the family was using the grill was a weapon. This lady was trying to get people shot.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:45 AM on May 27 [12 favorites]


When Barbecuing and Living While Black Becomes a Crime, by Michelle Dione Snider, the woman who filmed Schulte harassing her family.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:20 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]




Not only is BBQ Becky confirmed as Jennifer Schulte, but she initially claimed to the police that the family was using the grill was a weapon. This lady was trying to get people shot.

I await the charge of wasting police time or malicious false reporting that is surely coming. /s
posted by jaduncan at 11:28 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


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