OP-ED: Stop frivolously calling police on black people

Matthew Fleischer
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
President and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Manhattan, Gary Flom and Svitlana Flom pose during Jaguar Land Rover Manhattan Presents The Opening Of The Metropolitan Opera's "Tristan Und Isolde" at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York on September 26, 2016. (Ilya S. Savenok/Jaguar Land Rover/Getty Images/TNS)

Americans of all stripes are taking to the streets to protest the unjust killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — and the larger issues of police brutality and institutional racism in our society. The vast majority of Americans support these protests.

But if you’re white and among the paltry 14% of people who don’t, one might think the recent international humiliation of Amy Cooper for her racist behavior might be enough to at least provoke some circumspection. Enough circumspection to say … not frivolously call police on a black woman for going about her day.

Alas, no.

Little more than a week after the Cooper video went viral — and in the middle of national protests over systemic racism — white New York restaurateur Svitlana Flom called police multiple times on a black woman sitting on an Upper West Side Manhattan park bench, alleging “harassment” and threats against her child.

More:Protests turn subdued after new charges in Floyd case

A series of Instagram posts by user @_brownsugarbaby (the recipient of Flom’s wrath), don’t show anything of the sort. What they show is an entitled white woman appalled at not getting her way — and willing to summon shock troops away from escalating civil unrest until she gets it.

Yes, Flom actually said: “She’s playing the black card.”

Flom alleges the video was selectively edited to make her “look racist.” But it’s pretty clear that she was in no physical danger while making her 911 calls. Her husband walks away from the encounter in apparent mortification while her child plays on a scooter, seemingly carefree, nearby.

This is not what danger looks like.

Danger is not someone sitting calmly on a park bench recording you with their cellphone. Danger is not feeling comfortable enough to sit feet away from your supposed menace, crossing your legs and waiting for police to arrive.

Unprecedented nationwide protests and the message still isn’t getting through.

Amy Cooper’s reprehensible call to police caused her to lose her job, her reputation and even her dog.

Falsely reporting an incident to authorities is a crime in New York and most other states. Aggressively prosecuting these statutes is what it will probably take for the message to finally sink in.

In the interim, here’s that message again, plainly stated:

Calling 911 is not a free mediation service for white people to get the upper hand in banal disputes. We live in an unjust, racist society. Calling police on a black person puts his or her life and liberty in danger. “Feeling” threatened doesn’t mean you are. If you do “feel” threatened, especially in broad daylight with bystanders all around you, walk away. Anything short of that and you don’t “look racist,” you are.