LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The California Legislature Friday will begin debating a bill which would make it against the law to make a false 911 call based on a person’s ethnic background, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
Assembly Bill 1775 would make it a hate crime to make a discriminatory 911 call.
Under the bill, doing so would come with a misdemeanor sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
AB 1775 is combining three previous bills under one, Huntington Park Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer said Thursday.
The proposal to make racist 911 calls a hate crime was initially introduced as a separate bill back in mid-June by Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland.
“No one should be allowed to turn 911 into a weapon of racism and hate,” Bonta said in a statement Thursday. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in one voice to address this critical issue of injustice once and for all. AB 1775 will ensure the dignity of all people, provide accountability for offenders, and protect victims.”
AB 1775 would also allow the victim to file a lawsuit against the person who made the fake 911 call.
California law prohibits false police reports. However, according to Bonta, the current law does not include measures for addressing discrimination.
The issue has gained nationwide attention in the wake of the George Floyd protests. The most infamous of these was a fake 911 call made in New York City’s Central Park back in May when a white woman called 911 on a Black man because he asked her to leash her dog.
In the cell phone video, the woman repeatedly tells 911 dispatchers that the man is Black and demands they “send the cops immediately.”
“There’s an African-American man, he’s recording me and threatening me and my dog,” she claimed.
The video went viral, sparking outrage.
“Recently, we’ve seen prejudiced 911 calls made against communities of color, often Black and Latino individuals, for engaging in everyday activities such as barbecuing, birdwatching, etching chalk artwork onto their own property, and even a confrontation with an 8-year-old girl selling water,” Jones-Sawyer said in a news release.
In the city of San Francisco, a similar ordinance was introduced last month. It was called the CAREN Act, because the name “Karen” has become a term used to refer to those who make racist 911 calls.
AB-1775 will go before the state Senate Public Safety Committee Friday.