Social media has been awash in videos capturing the use of 911 as an abuse against Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). We’re not talking about the George Floyd incident, but instances where Caucasians summon law enforcement as a means of leverage against BIPOC. These callers (women are referred to as “Karen”) inflate a reasonable conversation or simple request into a call for assistance, generally asserting that an assault or crime is taking place—or will be soon unless the police respond.
• Amy Cooper, who has since become known as “Central Park Karen,” called 911 when a Black man asked her to leash her dog in a birding area in the park where signage required such restraints. Her call to the police (which was recorded by Christian Cooper, no relation) was preceded by Amy Cooper saying, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” On July 6th, Amy Cooper was charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
• On June 29th, a Hampton Inn employee in Williamston, North Carolina called the police to report “trespassers” in the hotel pool. The two children and their mom, who were visiting from Raleigh, are Black; the Caucasian hotel employee is no longer with the company.
• Twitter user “Jamietoons” posted his interaction with a Caucasian couple on June 11th. James Juanillo, who identifies as a BIPOC, was stenciling “Black Lives Matter” on the retaining wall in front of his San Francisco home when the man and woman approached him and accused him of “committing a crime.” Juanillo said what the woman did is, “polite racism. It's respectable racism. 'Respectfully, sir I don't think you belong here.’"
Assembly member Mark Stone has had enough of incidents like these. In February of 2019, he introduced amendments to Assembly Bill 1472, which would make false reports to police, including 911 calls, a violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act when made against a person because of that person’s race or other protected characteristic. This bill would also allow for civil action against persons who make false police reports or claims, regardless of discriminatory motives. The specific language of the amendment includes: “A communication between a person and a law enforcement agency in which the person makes a false report that another person has committed, or is in the act of committing, a criminal act or is engaged in an activity requiring law enforcement intervention, knowing that the report is false, or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the report.”
Stone said, “Across California and across the country, people are again demanding that those of us in elected office deal with the systemic, institutionalized racism inherent in law enforcement and other governmental systems. Black Americans are over-policed and subject to higher rates of police brutality, use-of-force, harassment, arrest, and incarceration. This violent oppression is devastating to Black communities and contributes to higher rates of mortality and poverty, among a multitude of other negative outcomes. In addition to Black communities, American Indian/Alaskan native and Latinx communities are also disproportionately affected by policing in America.”
10th District Senator Bob Wieckowski is a coauthor, and it was amended in the Senate on June 24, 2020. Stone and Wieckowski are talking to other members of the Senate to gather support, and they have until the end of August to get the Bill through the process.