SALEM, Ore. — A black Oregon Representative whose trip through a Clackamas neighborhood last summer prompted a nervous, white homeowner to call police is now pushing a bill that would allow someone in a position similar to hers to sue the caller.
Her story was dubbed “campaigning while black."
“Having someone have called the police on you… you become a victim,” Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) said Thursday.
The bill, which has already faced a handful of public hearings in the Judiciary Committee, says a person “commits the offense of unlawfully summoning a police officer” when they call the police on someone for a reason other than criminal activity and “a reasonable person would not consider the other person to pose a risk to any person or property.”
Regarding the person who’s having the police called on them, the bill says the interaction with officers must also cause:
(A) Infringement of the other person’s rights under the Oregon or United States Constitutions;
(B) Unlawful discrimination against the other person;
(C) The other person to feel harassed, humiliated or embarrassed;
(D) A groundless legal process to be initiated against the other person; or
(E) Damage to the other person’s reputation or standing within the community.
Rep. Bynum points to other cases of people calling the police on black citizens who, it turned out, were doing nothing wrong.
Chief among them is the case of Jermaine Massey, who police removed from a Portland hotel where he was a guest.
The case drew national attention in December, and the hotel has since fired the employees who made the call.
“You've been accused now of being somewhere when you're just living your life and there is no recourse for you to seek any sort of justice,” Rep. Bynum, said via Skype from Salem. “You're just repeatedly, not to say a victim, but you're repeatedly subjected to someone questioning your validity.”
Per an amendment, the bill does not open the door for a criminal charge. It only allows for civil litigation with statutory damages of up to $250.
A Judiciary Committee vote on the bill scheduled for Thursday was carried over to Monday.