Woman denies race was factor in calling police on black Oregon state lawmaker

Oregon State Rep. Janelle Bynum meets with constituents Wednesday at the Happy Valley Independence Day parade. The day before someone called the police on her while she was going door to door to meet with voters. (KATU Photo)

An Oregon state lawmaker had the police called on her Tuesday while she was going door to door meeting voters.

Rep. Janelle Bynum is black, but the woman who called police told KATU race wasn’t a factor as to why she dialed 911 to report the legislator canvassing a predominantly white area.

The woman told dispatch she had watched the woman knock on the door of seven different houses. Afterward, the state representative would hang out at the end of the driveway for a few minutes to take notes on the interaction with the voter.

Bynum wasn’t willing to say it was a case of racism, but thinks some type of bias was clearly at play.

KATU caught up with Bynum on Wednesday as she took in the Happy Valley Independence Day parade. She was all smiles, but just the day before, she had the police called on her as she went through a Clackamas neighborhood.

“I was on my second to last house, and the police came up,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, no.’”

The caller told the 911 dispatcher: “For no apparent reason (she’s) walking from house to house, and she’s not in any business or have any badge or anything.”

Bynum is running for a second term and spends up to 30 hours a week going door to door, reaching out to likely voters.

The woman who called 911 told KATU she was put off because Bynum didn’t stop by her house, and that raised her suspicions.

“I stuck out, right?” Bynum said. “As an African American, I am very sensitive to being accused and very sensitive to people automatically assuming things about a person without ever having talked to them.”

The 911 caller didn’t mention Bynum’s race at first.

“Ah no, she’s African American, from what I can tell,” the caller told the dispatcher.

But she didn’t give a reason for why she called police on Bynum rather than say “hello” to her while the state representative went door to door.

Bynum said she’s hyperaware people may be biased against her, so she tries to overcome that.

“Everything to make sure people know that, you know, someone is coming, and I’m not sneaking up on them,” she said.

Getting the police called on her while campaigning is a first for her, but she said it won’t stop her.

“I live in this neighborhood. I feel like I should be able to walk anywhere I want without being second-guessed,” Bynum said.

Bynum spoke on the phone with the 911 caller, who apologized to her. She said she called police because of neighborhood safety. Bynum noted that in all her visits to voters, none of them have mentioned being concerned about crime in their neighborhood.

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