Jennifer Schulte, the white woman who earned herself the pejorative “BBQ Becky”–after calling the police on a black family barbecuing at a park in Oakland, California–had her mental health questioned by the 911 dispatcher who took the call.
Recall: Schulte broke into tears after confronting the family, calling the cops and then being confronted by the family herself. A lengthy video of the encounter went viral and quickly launched Schulte into the upper echelons of viral online infamy as something of a living metaphor for the state of certain race relations in America today. While on the phone with police, Schulte said:
I reported about over two hours ago some people were illegally grilling in the park with a charcoal grill where they’re not supposed to, I was waiting there for a response because I was told they’re coming. After two hours, I just called back the non-emergency line, and in the interim these people came up and started harassing me, physically pushing me.
(Note: The family disputed Schulte’s accusations of harassment and violence. Oakland police declined to charge anyone over the incident.)
Several months later, the Oakland Police Department was forced to release the audio from two of Schulte’s 911 calls to local Fox affiliate KTVU 2 after the station filed a California Public Records Act request for the files.
In the audio, Schulte identifies herself and says, “I’d like to report that someone is illegally using a charcoal grill in a non-designated area in Lake Merritt Park near Cleveland Cascade. I’d like it dealt with immediately so that coals don’t burn more children and we have to pay more taxes.”
The dispatcher then requests a description of the barbecuer in question and also asks if she wants police to make contact with her when they arrive. Schulte answers in the affirmative and the brief call ends. Two hours later, however, Schulte calls 911 again.
This time a different dispatcher answers–as Schulte is going through the above tear-inducing interaction. The dispatcher asks, “Who’s yelling in the background? Why is the person yelling? To panic over a barbecue? I don’t understand.”
Schulte replies, “I don’t know.”
As the call progresses, the situation on the line deteriorates considerably.
Eventually, the second dispatcher asks for Schulte’s own name and description but she hesitates before finally describing her clothes alone. When the dispatcher asks for her race, Schulte says, “My race doesn’t matter.” To which the dispatcher responds, “It does matter. How are we going to find you? Just any lady? Are you black or are you white?” Schulte is adamant, though, she says, “It doesn’t matter. I want the police to come I’ve been waiting two hours for them.”
Not to be deterred, the dispatcher lays it out again, asking, “How are they going to find you?” Schulte still resists. She says, “They usually call your cell phone when they’re here.” Then comes the mental health ask.
The dispatcher says, “I’m talking to you right now. Have you ever been to John George?” Schulte replies, “What’s John George?” The dispatcher answers, “It’s a mental facility.” Schulte says, “No!”
The two go back and forth a bit more before Schulte eventually provides her full description. As mentioned, the police did eventually arrive but no charges were filed and no arrests were made. Notably, the 911 dispatcher’s question wasn’t an idle question.
When police finally made it to the scene of the barbecue, Schulte was apparently considered for a 51-50 psychiatric hold–which allows cops in the Golden State to take someone into custody for up 72 hours in order to evaluate their mental state. Ultimately, though, the arriving officer decided that Schulte “didn’t fit the criteria.”
[image via screengrab]
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