A California lawmaker wants to make it illegal to make discriminatory 911 phone calls.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, announced that he is introducing legislation that would make it a hate crime to make a 911 phone call motivated by another person’s race, religion, sex or any other protected class. The bill also would allow people who are victims of such phone calls to sue the caller.
There have been several instances that have gone viral on social media of a white person calling 911 on a Black person over trivial concerns, such as a 2018 incident in Oakland in which a woman called police to report a group of black men barbecuing near Lake Merritt.
One recent such viral video shows a New York City woman, Amy Cooper, telling police that she was being threatened by a Black man, Christian Cooper, who was out bird-watching.
After the video went viral, Amy Cooper was publicly shamed and lost her job. She later publicly apologized for the incident.
California law currently makes it a misdemeanor to make a false report to the police. The law does not include “accountability measures to address discrimination if a person summons law enforcement because they perceive another individual to be a threat due to their race, religion, outward appearance, or inclusion in a protected class,” according to Bonta’s office.
Bonta said that his bill “will impose serious consequences” on people who make such phone calls. His office said that the bill is intended to “prevent the weaponization of our law enforcement against communities of color.”
“Racist and discriminatory 911 calls are dangerous, demeaning and demoralizing to the person falsely accused. They further deteriorate community-police relations and contribute to the inaccurate and harmful over-criminalization of black and brown communities,” Bonta said in a statement. “If you are afraid of a black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice.”
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