What Happens When Police De-Escalate White Racial Profiling

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Over the past few months, there have been multiple high-profile racial profiling incidents involving white people calling the police because Black people or people of color looked “suspicious.”

The calls resulted in bringing the conversation of racial profiling to national attention, where it belongs, and piled negative publicity on the white callers and on police departments that responded inappropriately.

Then one police department responded appropriately, siding with the wrongly accused instead of escalating the situation. That in itself made headlines and brought the police department into a feedback loop of positive reinforcement.

After a Memphis woman called the cops on real estate investor Michael Hayes, he shot a 9-minute video of his May 5 visit to the home that he was inspecting before repairs were made. Hayes posted the video to YouTube.

“So we’re out here at a house now, one of where we’re under contract to pick up on, and for whatever reason, the neighbor has called the police on us,” Hayes said to the camera. “I mean, this is what we go through — (a) young black man out here trying to do what’s right and we get the police called on us.”

Hayes told the woman he had every right to be there, showing her his investment contract and a statement from the owner that he had permission to enter the home. Still, she was unmoved and called police, Hayes said, according to the New York Post.

“I’m really not sure what she wants me to do other than leave the neighborhood,” Hayes continued.

Two police officers quickly determined that Hayes was, in fact, allowed to be there. They encouraged him to keep the cameras rolling, New York Post reported:

“You keep the camera rolling,” a white male officer told Hayes. “If you have any problems with her, what I want you to do is call me back over here and she will go to jail today. I don’t fool around.”

The unidentified woman then claimed she had friends in the sheriff’s department, prompting the officer to quickly shut her down.

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

Still not satisfied, the woman told Hayes to “hurry up” and do what he had to do and then “get out” of the neighborhood.

“No, he can take all day,” the cop replied. “He can do it all night, it doesn’t matter. He’s in control, he’s got a contract, so that is what it is.”

Concerned about his safety, Hayes then asked the cops to stick around for a few minutes while he took his pictures.

In a statement to The Post, the Memphis Police Department said the officers seen in the video were “examples of the vast majority” of cops throughout the department.

“Our officers will respond to all calls of service and are trained and expected to respond in a professional manner,” the statement read. “Regarding this specific incident, our officers responded and handled the situation accordingly. We are thankful to Mr. Hayes for recording a positive interaction with MPD officers and for sharing the true image of what our officers represent.”

“The police, they were on my side,” Hayes says at the end of the video. “I’m happy to be going home now.”

White people calling the police on Black people for being Black is more likely to happen in places where people of color, especially Black people, are in the minority, Vox reported.

When cops are called in for situations where they’re not needed, callers — often white — create the potential for a violent encounter, or escalation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

This is a problem because police use force more often when dealing with people of color.

In 2014, police killed at least 287 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities such as looking “suspicious,” sleeping in parks, possessing drugs, or having a mental health crisis, according to Campaign Zero. The organization has a police reform campaign proposed by activists associated with Black Lives Matter.

Recent police department mishandlings of racial profiling

  • Filmmaker Donisha Prendergast, Bob Marley’s granddaughter, said she’ll sue the California police after they mistook her for an Airbnb burglar. She and two friends were racially profiled while renting an Airbnb in Rialto, California. A neighbor accused them of burglarizing and called the police. Kelly Fyffe-Marshall wrote in a Facebook post. “They informed us that there was also a helicopter tracking us. They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street.”
  • Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were led out of a Seattle Starbucks in handcuffs after a manager called the police to report them as trespassing. Video of the incident went viral, and a public outcry followed. Starbucks plans to close 8,000-plus stores in the U.S. on May 29 for “racial-bias” education.

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After two St. Louis-area racial profiling incidents in one week, students at a St. Louis high school are leading what has become a regional Black Lives Matter protest planned for Saturday to focus on racial profiling.

Kirkwood High School freshmen Devin Corley and Lily Dayan decided they were going to make a change, starting with themselves, according to KBIA Radio. Other local teens are joining the protest.

Corley wants the police held accountable for unjust arrest, shootings and killings. Dayan said high schools across the region are protesting to show that youth are outraged by the systemic racism and its effect and they are not giving up until the problems are fixed.

“We’re using our white privilege for something instead of just sitting around waiting for change to happen, we’re going to make it happen. We gotta stand up for what is right,” said Dayan.

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