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New Ohio Bill Aims To Stop Racially Motivated 911 Calls

Police car lights

Some Ohio lawmakers are introducing a new bill that is aimed at cutting down on racially motivated 911 calls.

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) says people are calling police on African American Ohioans while they are doing things as simple as sitting in parked cars.

West, an African American lawmaker, says it’s because that when people see a person of color, they sometimes react on their own fears.

“This is about fear, people having fear about why they are making calls in the first place," West says.

Darren Cooper of Hudson says he was the target of such a call. He says he was sitting in his parked car, talking on his phone, when a woman who saw him called police. The woman claimed he was holding a gun, raising it repeatedly, but when police arrived, they saw he was actually holding his iPhone and using the speaker phone function while talking.

Fellow state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) represents Cooper and his community.

"It is critical that we bring awareness to this issue that affects Black Ohioans throughout this state, and that we leverage the power of education to put an end to dangerous, non-emergency uses of 911 calls," Weinstein says.

Under the new bill, which has yet to be filed, victims of such calls could sue in civil court. Callers could be required to complete an implicit bias training program.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.