The complicated calculus of calling the cops

    Jun 1, 2022

    OTTAWA—Last weekend, my friend ran a half-marathon in the Ottawa Race Weekend, coming in at just under 2:15.00. Well done.

    We went to Lieutenant’s Pump for drinks on the patio with some other friends. About an hour in, a large, imposing white man stood a few feet from the table and began to racially harass me. My table immediately reacted because I don’t hang with people who will stay silent in those situations (it’s a very isolating, humiliating, and fearful feeling having to withstand racial attacks on your own when there are people all around you, silent. If that is your reaction, you’re part of the problem.) The man left.

    About 15 to 20 minutes later, the man returned and began to stare at me menacingly. He then took out a knife. Please note, this was a full patio of (white) patrons. Literally no one said a word.

    I called 911 (did you know that 911 will put you on hold?). And so did the table behind me.

    While I was on the phone, my friend, who is a social worker trained in crisis intervention, hopped the fence and began to talk to the man to de-escalate the situation. She got him to calm down until the police came and they arrested him. This is a young woman without weapons or authority. De-escalation is always an option.

    It was then I realized he had mental health issues.

    The police came and asked me if I wanted to press charges. I told them that I didn’t want him to face charges; I do not want him to go to jail and I don’t want a carceral solution to this problem. What I want is for him to get help and not get caught up in the criminal justice system where he may be less likely to receive that help. They agreed. And so they took him to the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

    What would I have done had the accused been a Black or Indigenous man? What would their response have been?

    Let’s look at another scenario featuring the Ottawa Police. An elderly Asian woman was practicing tai chi at Dundonald Park in Centretown. She was using an ornamental, collapsible sword in her practice. And of course, because Ottawa is where the Canadian headquarters of the Koncerned Karens Kontingent are located, someone called the police. As written on Reddit: “Today, some shitty person apparently had a problem with her being there and called the cops on her. So three officers came to deal with the threat she posed. The officers were unreasonably aggressive—repeatedly threatening to arrest her if she didn’t comply with their instructions. The problem is: she clearly doesn’t speak English.”

    The police allegedly proceeded to harass her and kick her out of a public park. Mayoral candidate and Ottawa City councillor Catherine McKenney was so perturbed, they sent an inquiry to interim police chief Steve Bell: “I am very concerned about reports of an elderly woman removed from Dundonald Park by police for doing tai chi. I have asked for an explanation. What I am reading is exceptionally concerning & unwarranted.”

    Ottawa Police responded: “There was no arrest or charge and the elderly woman willingly left the park without incident. She was not directed to leave.” After the Occupation, I’m not sure how much credibility the Ottawa Police has for us to take their word for it.

    The police decide who they want to treat humanely, depending on the race of both the perpetrator and the victim. Uvalde, Texas, laid that bare.

    AP News reported that police didn’t bother to enter the school to address the perpetrator of the Uvalde school shooting. In fact, one officer encouraged the children to call out for help and when one did, they were shot by the gunman. As more and more news comes out, it is clear that the police lied about their involvement, ignored procedure, and even arrested and pepper-sprayed the parents trying to save their children. “Law enforcement experts across the country were also shocked to learn new details of [the] police response, which ignored best practices adopted by Texas law enforcement to immediately send officers in to confront and kill active shooters,” the LA Times reported.

    Forty per cent of Ulvade’s city budget goes to policing. Bloomberg notes: “For Uvalde, which has roughly 16,000 residents, the $4-million police budget is the biggest expense in the city budget this year.” The school has its own police force, detailed security plans, and as CNN reports, spent $450,000 on security.

    What has not been talked about enough was that the victims were Hispanic. An op-ed in the Washington Post clarified, “everything north of Highway 90 is primarily White Republican, and everything south is mostly Hispanic Democrat. The city has about 15,000 residents; more than 80 per cent identify as Hispanic or Latino.” Robb Elementary is south of Highway 90. The op-ed goes onto reveal: “Most of Uvalde’s political leadership and the heads of the largest employers are White. At the center of town on the courthouse grounds, you’ll find a monument to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president—installed when the Ku Klux Klan dominated Uvalde politics.”

    The same reticence occurred with the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida where the victims were of the LGBTQ community. NBC News reminds us that “Orlando law enforcement was faulted for giving mass killer Omar Mateen more time to murder more people.”

    What is clear is before you call the police, you have to do the mental gymnastics of the consequences of doing so, depending on the race of the accused and/or the victims. If you do call the police, they may allow you or your loved ones to be slaughtered if they are not “good victims,” i.e., they are not white, male, and heterosexual. Modern policing has revealed itself to be the white supremacist arm of culling the herd.

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.