City leaders in Michigan will vote on an ordinance that would make abuse of 911 a criminal misdemeanor. This is specifically for people who call the police on a black person for “living while black.” Is this law necessary? We debate it on Chasing News.

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City may make it illegal to call 911 on black people

April 29th, 2019

Bill Spadea: City leaders in Michigan will vote next month on an ordinance that would make abuse of 911 a criminal misdemeanor. The efforts specifically targets people who call police on a black person for quote, living while black. Grand rapids has seen a spike in police being dispatched in situations that smacked of bias in one incident, officers were called to a black graduation party. The ordinance would carry a $500 fine. Is this law really necessary? Isn’t abusive 911 already a crime? Let’s bring back our A plus panel. Lisa Durden and Bob Bianchi. Bob, start with you. Former Prosecutor. How do you, how do you view a potential law like this?

Robert Bianchi: As a Prosecutor, my first concern is we are constantly trying to get the public to be invested in law enforcement and say, let us ferret it out. The second issue that I have, and I know Lisa, she’s going to be hot on this topic, is why did 911 dispatch these police if these, these call ins were bogus? So, they should be better trained. And the other thing is no one said in the instances that are bringing, being brought up like the graduation party, they were called in because of a noise complaint and the officers went there and said it didn’t violate the noise statute. So again, would they, police were clear in saying is that, in none of the instances that have been cited in supportive with this law, did they believe that they were calling in because the person was simply black or Hispanic or some other reason? And then my last point is how do we enforce the motives of people calling into 911? It’s nearly impossible.

Lisa Durden: When you have people like Permit Patty and Betty Barbecue, Betty, we black people can’t barbecue while black, we’re breathing while black, where partying while black, we’re walking while black, we’re sleeping while black because those kinds of individuals are abusing the system and they’re calling the cops on us. There’s already a hate crime law in place. What they’re doing there is expanding it to say, this is going to be a misdemeanor hate crime that we can charge you with now, if you would turn into Permit Patty or Barbeque Betty.

Bill Spadea: To that point, they’re not even offering any substantive evidence to say that this is happening. They’re using anecdotal evidence of, well, a couple of one-off outlier incidents. So, the question I have is what is the potential of someone now literally not calling the police for fear of repercussions, even if a crime is in progress?

Robert Bianchi: There is a great potential for that. And you know what communities would be harmed most by that? The minority communities. And, and let me just say this, when I moved into my new home in a white affluent area, I was dressed similar to this in a suit. And someone called 911 claiming that the house was being burglarized because they saw somebody that they did not identify with that house. And as I went out with my hands up in the air because the cops had their guns drawn and I walked out on my porch that put your hands on the railing. If it had been a black person that was there and the same 911 call was made, did that become now a racially motivated 911 call? How do we make the decision to adjudicate people in a court of law with proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to what their motivation is? We already have a law for false reporting.

Bill Spadea: Thank you guys. Have a great weekend.