“On Campus While Black” – is the trend of reporting to police about the presence of persons of color on a college campus a new form of campus segregation, a form of micro-gentrification or simply years of campus diversity training missing the mark?

A Yale student has police called on her for sleeping in a common room, police are called on two black men while meeting at Starbucks, police are again called on two Native-American college-tour attendees – this trend of alerting police to the simple presence of persons of color has been trending nationally for the past week. When this occurs on a college campus, it can have a direct effect on overall diversity, inclusiveness and police interaction with students.  In all cases as stated above, there had been no crime as the 911 caller suggested – or has there been?  In many states, there are statutes on record that criminalize the filing of false police reports.  The question then becomes, is a 911 call to the police due simply to the presence of a person color on campus a “false police report.”  

In Massachusetts, for example, under G.L. c. 269, § 13A, “[w]hoever intentionally and knowingly makes or causes to be made a false report of a crime to police officers shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than one year, or both.”

In California, “every person who reports to any other peace officer, … that a felony or misdemeanor has been committed, knowing the report to be false, woman-using-a-mobile-phoneis guilty of a misdemeanor if (1) the false information is given while the peace officer is engaged in the performance of his or her duties as a peace officer and (2) the person providing the false information knows or should have known that the person receiving the information is a peace officer.”  See, CHAPTER 7. Other Offenses Against Public Justice [142 – 181].  In Florida, a person who knowingly gives false information to a law enforcement officer concerning the alleged commission of any crime, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.  

While the various laws of many states are fairly consistent regarding false police reports, approaches by various colleges are not.  Diversity training on a college campus can address these important concerns while at the same time delivers a greater sense of inclusiveness to those students of color impacted.  Do you think colleges should be more aggressive in helping to prosecute the filing of false police reports?

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