A California politician introduced legislation that would make racially motivated 911 calls illegal in his city.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton introduced the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, also known as the CAREN Act, during a meeting on Tuesday, as reported by CNN. The bill’s nickname is a play on the term “Karen,” which refers to disgruntled white women who call the police on Black people for insignificant reasons.
The CAREN Act follows the lead of AB 1550, which was proposed by state Assembly member Rob Banta. During the board of supervisors meeting, Walton stated both bills “are part of a larger nationwide movement to address racial biases and implement consequences for weaponizing emergency resources with racist intentions,” according to KTVU.
Walton appeared on Fox News’ “The Story” on Wednesday to explain the importance of the legislation.
“If you look at what’s been happening across the country, you see people making these frivolous and these arbitrary 911 calls,” Walton explained to host Trace Gallagher. “And so what happens? You put people of color in contact with law enforcement. And in some cases, there’s some very dire consequences that can lead to harm to human beings.”
“But in some cases, they’ve also led to death,” Walton added. “So no one should be calling 911 to weaponize 911 against people of color, black people or any other protected class.”
Karen-like behavior has been under more scrutiny since George Floyd’s death sparked unrest across the nation. Floyd died on Memorial Day after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes.
The same day, a New York woman named Amy Cooper called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher, because he asked her to leash her dog in the Ramble section of Central Park. While on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, Amy Cooper changed the inflection of her voice to make it seem like she was in imminent danger. She lost her job and had to temporarily surrender her dog to a rescue shelter.
On July 6, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced its plans to prosecute Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree. Christian Cooper publicly refused to participate in the case.
“That’s not enough of a deterrent to others?” he said on Tuesday. “Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.”
Last week, a white Hampton Inn employee lost her job after a tense interaction with a Black mother who was using the hotel’s pool.
In 2014, San Francisco itself was the scene of one tragic example of such calls gone awry, when two white park-goers called police on security guard Alex Nieto as he nervously paced past them after a tense encounter with an unleashed dog. The couple told the 911 dispatcher the man’s Taser he rested a hand on at his waist was a gun, and within five minutes four police officers responded and gunned down the 28-year-old Hispanic man in a fusillade of 59 gunshots, claiming later he pointed the Taser at them from a distance and they mistook it for a gun.
Proposed laws like the Caren Act or AB 1550 — which spells out penalties of five-figure fines and possible jail time — would still require prosecutors to enforce them if they are to have any teeth. Ronald Ritchie, the man who falsely reported to a 911 dispatcher in a 2014 call that John Crawford III was pointing a rifle at shoppers in a Cleveland-area Walmart, was not prosecuted after police stormed the store and gunned down the 22-year-old Black man on sight as he walked through the store talking on a cellphone and swinging by its barrel a BB gun he’d found on the shelf.