When people of color go missing
The gist of a report released yesterday regarding how authorities handled the case of Mitrice Richardson, a young woman found dead almost two years ago in a Malibu canyon, dealt with poor communication between agencies after her body was found, not with how her disappearance was handled or the decisions that led up to it.
But because it’s part of a larger puzzle, her case is worth bringing up again for other reasons. Richardson, who was black, was 24 years old when she was released from the Malibu-Lost Hills station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after midnight without her purse or a cell phone. Her car had been towed after Richardson, a former beauty queen and college graduate who struggled with mental illness, was arrested for not paying her bill at a Malibu restaurant.
In the criticism since lobbed at the Sheriff’s Department, the role of race in how her case was handled has been more than implied. Richardson’s parents filed suit for wrongful death, charging that authorities should never have released her how they did, in the middle of the night in unfamiliar surroundings with no transportation or way of contacting anyone for help.
As for media coverage, Richardson’s case eventually made major headlines, but not initially, when the search for her began. It may not have made a difference. But there is a stark gap in coverage of missing persons, children and adults, that is tied to race and ethnicity.