Janelle Bynum, a black Oregon Democratic state representative, took to Facebook to report that while she was canvassing, one of her constituents called the police for suspicious behavior. She posted a smiling photo with the officer who responded, adding that he acted professional.
Bynum was going door to door in Clackamas County for hours, talking to residents and taking notes about the conversations on her phone. As she neared the end of her list of homes, a police officer approached her. He asked if she was selling something and explained someone had reported Bynum “appearing to spend a long time at houses in the area and appearing to be casing the neighborhood while on her phone,” per The Oregonian. Bynum only had her cell, a pen, and campaign fliers on her.
Bynum is running for a second term in Oregon’s House of Representatives. Since November 2016 she has represented House District 51, which includes east Portland, Gresham, North Clackamas, Damascus, Boring, and Happy Valley. She says this is the first time the police have ever been called on her.
"It was just bizarre," Bynum told The Oregonian. "It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate. But at the end of the day, it's important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings."
Bynum asked the officer who responded to the call if she could meet the woman who made it, but she wasn’t home. The officer, who couldn’t confirm the caller's race, eventually got the woman on the phone; she apologized and explained she had called 911 for her neighborhood's safety.
"We all know that we're not in a society that is perfect," Bynum said, and we have wounds that still need to heal, but at the end of the day, I want to know my kids can walk down the street without fear."
"I hope everyone gets a good look at my face, because I'm coming to your door," she added.
In Oakland, California in June, firefighter Kevin Moore had the cops called on him for doing annual, city-mandated inspections around homes—in full firefighter gear. Coworker Megan Bryan told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s our work to do with other white people, to check our implicit biases and racism. It’s not fair to him, and it’s actually not safe for him to be going into these backyards due to the sociopolitical climate.”