Longtime Manhattan public defender Eliza Orlins says incidents like the one recently recorded in Central Park over a dog leash and other “hysterical 911 calls” need to stop because lives are being ruined. “I think this woman has been saying, ‘My life's been ruined ever since this tweet went viral,’” Orlins told Yahoo News. “But routinely, on a daily basis, people of color have their lives ruined by just an arrest, just an accusation.”
AMY COOPER: Please stop. Sir, I'm asking you to stop.
CHRISTIAN COOPER: Please don't come close to me.
AMY COOPER: I'm sorry. I'm in The Ramble. And there is a man-- African-American. He has a bicycle helmet. He is recording me and threatening me and my dog. There is an African-American man. I am in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.
And my-- I'm sorry. I can't hear you either. I am being threatened by a man in The Ramble. Please send the cops immediately.
ELIZA ORLINS: I'm Eliza Orlins. I'm a career-long public defender and a candidate for Manhattan District Attorney. As someone who has spent over a decade as a public defender representing people who aren't able to afford to hire an attorney, and mostly people of color, to be fair, who I've seen get arrested on any number of charges but get targeted based on the color of their skin and, oftentimes, the neighborhood in which they live.
And so I saw this. And I saw people commenting on this specific incident. And I realized that I needed to kind of do a bit of an explainer and just say, it's not only about this incident. This is a systemic problem. This is something that's much broader than just this one woman calling the cops on this one black man. This is something that happens routinely. And we really need to change this.
In my experience as a public defender for over 10 years, I have seen countless situations where the police get called, and there is a white person making an accusation against a person of color. That person gets arrested. Even if they had a side of the story to tell, the cops are inclined to believe a white accuser.
And that person gets arrested. They get brought to court. They get charged by the Manhattan District Attorney's office based on these allegations. They get arraigned. Oftentimes, outrageous bail get set that their family is unable to afford to make. And then they sit at Rikers Island for days, weeks, months, even years fighting these charges.
50% of the time, the case gets dismissed in the end anyhow. But maybe the person ends up having to plead guilty to a lesser charge or plead guilty to the charge just to be done with the case and get out. And so I've seen this cycle repeat and repeat over the years. And I really-- I think it's just time that we speak out about this and that we reform the system.
People really can say, oh, this video is so horrible, but not connect it with the broader systemic problems that we have, which are that a hysterical 911 call with a fabricated accusation can be used to really ruin someone's life. You know, I think this woman has been saying, oh, my life's been ruined ever since this tweet went viral.
But routinely-- routinely-- on a daily basis, people of color have their lives ruined by just an arrest, just an accusation. They sit in jail. They lose their jobs, their homes, their families. They lose everything they've ever worked for.
And this is a hysterical 911 on one call that I've seen used in court. And there was no video to refute it in a case that I tried. But thankfully, Mr. Cooper was recording. And this video has gotten a lot of attention and brought this issue to light in a really meaningful way.
I do think that a lot of these videos that are now coming out into the light because people are walking around with cell phones all the time now that have video recording capabilities, that we are seeing more and more of this behavior. But I think it's important to call this out. But calling it out is not enough.
Being a keyboard warrior is not sufficient. We need to weaponize this. And as a white woman, as someone who I think has a massive amount of privilege, I feel obligated to speak out about these things and make sure that people understand what is actually happening-- what is happening in their names.