State Rep. Janelle Bynum, an Oregon Democrat, was talking to constituents, typing notes on her cellphone as she knocked on doors in her district just outside Portland.
Then a sheriff’s deputy pulled up.
Bynum — who is black — said a resident in the Clackamas County neighborhood where she was canvassing had called the police on Tuesday, thinking she was “suspicious” because she was going door to door and “spending a lot of time typing on her cellphone after each house.”
“Live from the mean streets of Clackamas!!!” she wrote in a Facebook post recounting the incident, which the Root summarized in hashtag form: CampaigningWhileBlack.
In recent months, black people have found themselves the subjects of 911 calls over mundane and innocuous activities, like napping. Or in Bynum’s case, for doing her job.
Such false-alarm emergency calls over nonemergency incidents, some of which have been captured on video, have raised questions about whether people were calling the police not because of what someone was doing, but because of the person’s race.
Bynum told the Oregonian that she had just finished speaking with someone at one of the 30 homes she visited Tuesday afternoon and was typing notes about her conversations on her phone when she saw the sheriff’s deputy in his patrol car.
The officer asked her if she was selling something, and Bynum introduced herself as a state legislator.
“It was just bizarre,” she 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.”
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. Bynum said in her Facebook post that the deputy, whom she referred to as Officer Campbell, “responded professionally.”
The two took a selfie, and Bynum posted the picture on Facebook.
In her Facebook post, Bynum said she asked the sheriff’s deputy to connect her with the 911 caller. The woman, who was not identified, had already left the neighborhood. But, Bynum wrote: “The officer called her, we talked and she did apologize.” Bynum was first elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2016 and is running for reelection this year.
There have been several other similarly banal activities viewed with a suspicious lens in recent weeks.
For a 12-year-old black boy in Ohio, it was mowing the lawn. For an 8-year-old girl in California, it was selling water outside the apartment building where she lives. And for a pair of young black men in Philadelphia, it was sitting inside a Starbucks waiting for a person they were supposed to meet.