WITH SEATTLE OVERRUN BY CRIME AND DISEASE, THIS IS A PRIORITY?

Seattle Police Chief Tells People To Call 911 If They Hear ‘Racist Name-Calling.’

Seattle’s top cop may want to get her priorities straightened out. In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Police Chief Carmen Best used her most recent “chief’s brief” update on the coronavirus crisis to urge residents to dial 911 if they are the victims of racist name-calling.

It’s a time-wasting imperative—and one that’s at odds with the First Amendment.

In her briefing, Best called upon the expertise of a former local news anchor, Lori Matsukawa.

“Hate crimes have no place in our community,” said Matsukawa. “We are all trying to deal with the COVID-19 public health crisis together. If you are a victim of a hate crime or hate-based harassment, please call 911.”

“We will document and investigate every reported hate crime,” Best continued. “Even racist name-calling should be reported to police. If you aren’t sure if a hate crime occurred, call 911. We are here to help.”

This is unhelpful guidance that conflates two completely different things. A hate crime takes place when a person, motivated by animus, engages in criminal activity against a protected class. Importantly, the underlying action has to be criminal in nature: vandalism, assault, etc. Mere speech is not generally criminal, except in a few special cases (true threats of violence, for instance). Racist speech could be an element of a hate crime conviction, but engaging in racist speech is not itself a criminal action. In fact, hateful speech is clearly protected under the First Amendment, according to Supreme Court precedent.

 

Racist name-calling isn’t a crime, and can’t be made one.

 

 

h/t GR