Michigan city may criminalize calling 911 on 'people of color for participating in their lives'

Posted at 6:53 AM, Apr 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-29 07:54:09-04

One Michigan city is considering an ordinance that would make it a "criminal misdemeanor to racially profile people of color for participating in their lives," according to local lawmakers.

The proposed ordinance in Grand Rapids comes as part of a larger proposed human rights ordinance that includes further defining discriminatory practices and terms, such as for people with disabilities and of differing sexual orientations and weight.

There have been a series of highly publicized 911 calls on people of color across the nation, which are often referred to on social media as #LivingWhileBlack.

This includes a Smith College employee who called cops on a black student she believed looked "out of place" on campus and a woman who notified police about a group of people at a barbecue in Oakland, California. Last month, a black man in Colorado who said he was picking up trash on his own property had guns drawn on him by police.

(MORE: Colorado police under investigation after viral video shows them pulling guns on black man picking up trash on his own property)At a public hearing this week, Patti Caudill, the diversity and inclusion manager for Grand Rapids, described an incident in 2017 in which Grand Rapids police were called on a graduation party in a park, according to local ABC affiliate WZZM.

"They had approval and permission to be in that park," Caudill said. "The family and most of the people attending that graduation party were African American ... was it because of bias? I don't know."

The city's proposal falls under the section of "biased crime reporting" in the ordinance.

"No person shall knowingly or recklessly report to a City police officer, City dispatcher, or other City personnel that an individual who is an actual or perceived member of a protected class ... has committed, or may or will commit, a crime, if such report is based in whole or in part on the individual's membership in a protected class and not on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in consideration of all available facts and the totality of the circumstances," the ordinance says.

The proposal's purpose is to ensure the "health, safety and welfare of the City's residents," the ordinance states.

A 2018 letter calling for Congress to hold a hearing on "racially-biased 911" calls also noted the calls can be "costly" because of "the financial time and resources pulled from 911 operators to the protocol police officers must then follow," according to NPR.

Grand Rapids lawmakers may vote on the ordinance in the next few weeks, according to WZZM, and it could go into effect as early as this summer.