California lawmakers pass bill making false, racist 911 calls a hate crime
California lawmakers have passed legislation seeking to crack down on discriminatory emergency calls, making it a crime to try to intimidate a person based on their race with a false 911 report.
Though it is already illegal to knowingly file a false emergency report, the bill before Newsom would also make it a hate crime to file a false report based on a person’s race, religion or sex.
“The bill would additionally make a false report that is a hate crime punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony if it is committed for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with that other person’s free exercise or enjoyment of their rights,” the bill states.
The bill is intended to help put an end to 911 calls “aimed at violating the rights of individuals based upon race, religion, sex, or any other protected class,” the measure states.
“The current punishment for making a false police report does not address the growing number of cases of peace officers being summoned to violate the rights of, for example, Black and Brown individuals for doing day-to-day activities—essentially living their lives,” it adds.
The legislation joins similar bills and measures that have been passed or considered in other parts of the country in recent years following high-profile incidents of police being called on people of color while those individuals engaged in ordinary activities.
One of the most viral instances happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2018 when a white woman, referred to on social media as “BBQ Becky,” was recorded calling the police on several Black people for using a charcoal grill in a local park, an incident that drew widespread criticism online.
At the time, the woman said she had called the cops because using the grill was illegal in the park. In footage at the time, she could be seen standing next to the group of people for several minutes while appearing to talk to police on the phone.
“She said that we were trespassing, we were not welcome, and then she turned back around and said, ‘Y’all going to jail,’ ” one of the men said at the time.
That same year a Black student at Yale university was also reportedly questioned by campus police after being reported by a white student for napping in a common room at the school’s Hall of Graduate Studies. The student had reportedly fallen asleep while doing a project.
Earlier this year, a similar incident went viral when a white woman was recorded calling the cops on a Black man at Central Park in New York. The woman later apologized for her actions but was also fired from her job shortly after footage of the moment went viral.
The bill passed by California lawmakers this week says the measure is “intended to create a path for an individual who has been subject to a racially motivated ‘911’ call to be able to file a lawsuit for damages.”
“People of color should have the liberty to live their lives and to go about their business without having to be confronted by police for doing so. These calls cause mistrust between communities of color and peace officers that further deteriorates community-police relations,” it continues.
“Thus, it is up to the Legislature to help end the use of peace officers as a personal force for people who harbor racial animus—it is a waste of time and resources to have the police deployed when criminal activity is not occurring,” the bill adds.
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