Should We Discourage Height, Sex, and Hair Color from Police Reports, Too?
Why is it racist to mention a suspect’s race in a 911 call? The New York Times still doesn’t explain, but apparently many other people share its view that only a bigot would give police officers a full description of a potential criminal. Two days ago, the Times raised the red flag of racism over the trivial discrepancy between the 911 call reporting a possible break-in at Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s home and the police report on the incident: The 911 caller, Lucia Whalen, had told dispatchers that she was uncertain about the suspects’ race, whereas the police report said that she had mentioned that they were black.
Today, the Times has written virtually the identical article under what is meant to be another shocking headline: “Caller Says Race Wasn’t Mentioned to Officer in Gates Case.” The only thing new in the second article is a fuller description of the abuse directed at Whalen under the assumption that she had mentioned that the two men seen breaking into the front door of Gates’ house were black: “When I was called a racist, I was the target of scorn and ridicule because of things I never said,” she told reporters.
Perhaps the people who have called Whalen a “racist” under the misimpression that she communicated the suspects’ possible race will indemnify future crime victims attacked by at-large criminals whose apprehensions were unnecessarily delayed by witnesses or prior victims’ withholding information about race from the police.