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CAREN Act introduced by California lawmaker aims to outlaw racially motivated 911 calls

The Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, or CAREN, Act is meant to crack down on racially motivated 911 calls.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — An ordinance introduced by a San Francisco lawmaker looks to crack down on racially-motivated 911 calls.

The proposal comes in response to a number of incidents recently where white people have been recorded calling the police on Black people who are found to have done nothing wrong. 

Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, or CAREN Act, Tuesday and wrote on Twitter, "Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that's why I'm introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting."

The name appears to be a play on the "Karen" nickname, which has been given to many white women who are seen in viral videos calling authorities on people of color.  

One recent example involved a white woman who called the police during a videotaped dispute with a Black man over her walking her dog without a leash in New York City's Central Park. 

"911 calls and emergency reports are not customer service lines for racist behavior, and using these for fraudulent reports based on the perceived threats of someone's race takes away emergency resources from actual emergencies," Walton said during Tuesday's meeting. 

Walton explained the proposed measure isn't meant to discourage people from calling 911 for real emergencies, but rather to "protect communities of color who are often targeted and victims of fraudulent emergency calls." 

He added that the bill would make it illegal for a person to call on someone solely because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. 

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Making a false police report is a misdemeanor or even a felony case in many states, including California. This new act is meant to bring about accountability specifically related to racially biased calls to 911 and police. 

Curren Price, a Los Angeles City Councilman, introduced similar legislation to the LA City Council in June. He said at the time that the city should look at "criminal penalties, rights of victims to bring private civil actions and cost recovery by the city."  

Other ordinances and bills have been introduced in recent years in Michigan as well as New York state which looked to bring about civil actions and fines toward people who made not only false reports to police, but ones that were specifically racially motivated. 

In a 2018 New York state bill, Sen. Jesse Hamilton proposed requiring the local district attorney to investigate incidents like these as possible hate crimes.