Police across the nation have their hands full dealing with coronavirus pandemic, but in Seattle, Police Chief Carmen Best wants cops to investigate reports of “racist name-calling.”
In her “Covid-19 Response,” Chief Best said Monday that residents should report “hate, including racist name calling, to 911.”
“We will document and investigate every reported hate crime,” said Chief Best in a video. “Even racist name-calling should be reported to the police. We take this information very seriously.”
She added, “If you aren’t sure if a hate crime occurred, call 911. We are here to help, and will respond to investigate.”
The announcement came as Asian-American advocacy groups reported a spike in race-based discrimination, including “verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault,” spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Even so, the chief’s response was criticized on the right as an over-reaction.
“It’s a time-wasting imperative—and one that’s at odds with the First Amendment,” said Reason’s Robby Soave, adding that it “does not inspire confidence when Seattle’s top law enforcement authority uses her platform to blur the important distinction between hate crimes and hateful speech.”
The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council reported last week more than 750 incidents of “coronavirus discrimination” targeting Asian-Americans, primarily “verbal harassment/name calling,” as part of its Stop AAPI Hate campaign.
“The data from our reporting center—both the numbers and the self-reported narratives—clearly reveal that Asian Americans are being racially profiled as threatening, disease carriers,” said Russell Jeung, chair and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, in a statement.
Chief Best was joined on the video by former Seattle anchor Lori Matsukawa, who said, “Hate crimes have no place in our community. We’re better than that, Washington. We’re all trying to deal with the COVID-19 public-health crisis together.”
“If you are a victim of a hate crime and hate-based harassment, please call 911,” said Ms. Matsukawa.