On Tuesday (Oct. 20), the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the “Caren Act” criminalizing racially motivated 911 calls. Also dubbed the “Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act,” the legislation bans false police reports made with the intent to discriminate against a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, place of birth, sexual orientation, gender or religion.
“We want to make sure people don’t continue to weaponize emergency calls to law enforcement,” Supervisor Shamann Walton, who wrote the legislation, said on Tuesday.
The “Caren Act” is a response to the dozens of viral videos showing primarily middle-aged white women — referred to as “Karens” — calling the police on Black people for doing things like barbecuing or even standing on their own property. This summer began with the highly publicized Amy Cooper incident, where the white woman falsely accused a Black birdwatcher of threatening her.
While filing false police reports is already criminalized in California, the new act expands to include discriminatory police calls. Also, victims of such calls will now be able to sue the caller.
“Communities of color have the right to go about daily activities without being threatened by someone calling 911 on them due to someone’s racism,” Walton said. “Rather than calling the police or law enforcement on your neighbor or someone who you think doesn’t look like they should be your neighbor, try talking to them and getting to know them. Let’s build relationships in our communities.”
“We know that this has happened to a lot more other people, even our constituents, for just doing normal daily things,” Walton’s legislative aid Natalie Gee added to the San Francisco Examiner. “Just having more video and especially having it happen in San Francisco gave us the push of like all right, you know let’s go, let’s do this.”
The “Caren Act” will now be put through one final vote by the Board of Supervisors before moving on to be signed by Mayor London Breed.