White Caller Crime: Racialized Police Communication and Existing While Black
82 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2019 Last revised: 4 Sep 2020
Date Written: March 1, 2019
Over the past year, reports to the police against African Americans engaged in innocuous behaviors have bombarded the American consciousness. But what do we make of them? And, equally important, what are the consequences of such reports?
This Article is the first to argue that the recent spike in calls to the police against African Americans who are simply existing, must be understood as a systematic phenomenon which it dubs racialized police communication. The label captures two related practices: racially motivated police reporting — calls, complaints, or reports made when Black persons are engaged in behavior that would not have been read as suspicious, or otherwise worthy of police involvement had they been White; and racially weaponized police reporting — calls, complaints, or reports made against Blacks in an effort to capitalize on law enforcement mistreatment of African Americans, or harm the victim because of their race.
Both of these practices have severe ill-effects on their victims. As this Article documents, racialized police communication serves to segregate communities, expose innocent African Americans to physical, psychic, and psychological injuries, undermines governmental crime fighting efforts, and ultimately fortifies the second-class citizenship of Blacks. Because of these harms, the Article ends by considering how the law might serve to deter racialized police communication.
Note: I have borrowed the title from work by Michael Harriot, see Michael Harriot, ‘White Caller Crime’: The Worst Wypipo Police Calls of All Time, ROOT (May 15, 2018, 9:30AM). I do not mean to suggest that this author shares Mr. Harriot’s views, nor he, mine.
Keywords: Race, Racial profiling, Policing
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation