Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a wave of high-profile racial profiling incidents — white people calling the police because black people or people of color look “suspicious.”
But some officers aren’t happy to be called in these instances, as a new video shows.
Michael Hayes, a black real estate investor in Memphis, was inspecting a house in need of repairs on May 5. A white woman who lived in the neighborhood demanded to know why he was outside.
In a video posted to YouTube, Hayes explained that he was an investor looking at the property and that the person who owned the home knew he would be there. He also showed the woman an investment contract signed by the owner, as well as a letter showing that he had written permission to enter the house.
The woman, still suspicious of Hayes, called the police.
When they arrived, Hayes began recording his interaction with the officers, explaining that he had permission to be in the home. In a refreshing twist, the officers listened to Hayes and told the woman that if she interfered with his work, she would be arrested.
“If you have any problems with her, what I want you to do is call me back over here,” a male officer told Hayes. “She will go to jail for that.”
“Hurry up, do it and get out!” the woman then said to Hayes.
“He can take all day,” the officer replied.
The officers, at Hayes’s request, stayed outside as he took photos of the home.
Some white people are calling the police for really minor things
When you look at the recent spate of racial profiling cases, one thing that stands out is how minor some of the alleged offenses are — and that someone feeling suspicious or uncomfortable is seemingly enough to warrant calling law enforcement.
It also shows how people of color are subject to arbitrary social expectations and heightened scrutiny. It’s a phenomenon that academics argue is more likely to happen in places where people of color, especially black people, are in the minority.
Recent research shows that white and black communities call police at different rates and often for different reasons. When law enforcement officers are summoned in situations when they’re not actually needed, callers — who are often white — create the potential for a violent encounter, or escalation. It’s a real reason to be concerned, given that police use force more often when dealing with people of color.
Fortunately, the officers in Hayes’s case seemed aware of these issues because they chided the woman for calling the police for no reason and for telling the man that he didn’t belong in the neighborhood.
“The police, they were on my side,” Hayes says at the end of the video. “I’m happy to be going home now.”