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NJ governor signs bill criminalizing false 911 calls based on race

NJ governor signs bill criminalizing false 911 calls based on race
© Christian Cooper

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Monday signed a bill that makes it a crime to call 911 or file a false police report to solely intimidate someone because of race, ethnicity, religion or gender.

The bill, which took effect immediately, amends existing law to include false incrimination and filing a false police report as a form of bias intimidation.

Violators face up to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

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Murphy said in a statement that threatening to call 911 is an “unacceptable, abhorrent form of discrimination” that can be used to intimidate people of color.

“This irresponsible misuse of our 9-1-1 system places victims in a potentially dangerous situation, and can erode trust between Black and Brown New Jerseyans and law enforcement,” Murphy said. "Individuals who choose to weaponize this form of intimidation should held be accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that false 911 calls interfere with 911 emergency operations and “puts law enforcement at risk.”

The legislation comes just months after a white woman called 911 and falsely reported that a Black man was threatening her after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in New York City's Central Park. 

Christian Cooper, an avid birder, filmed the May interaction that immediately went viral and garnered more than 40 million views on Twitter.

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He is heard asking Amy Cooper, no relation, to put her dog on a leash. She then calls 911 and appears to become more frantic, despite Christian Cooper being several feet away and not moving any closer to her.

“Tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she is heard telling the operator.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in July charged her with falsely reporting an incident.

Amy Cooper issued a public apology, saying she “reacted emotionally” and “made false assumptions about his intentions.”

“I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris," she said. "I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of forty years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology."