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New Jersey governor passes law making racist 911 calls illegal

The new legislation follows similar laws in New York, California and more.

Phil Murphy ABC

The governor of New Jersey passed a law that makes it illegal to call the police with the goal of intimidating somebody based on their race, gender or religion. The legislation — which Gov. Phil Murphy signed on Monday (Aug. 31) — creates a new category for filing false police reports within the state’s laws against bias intimidation.

“Using the threat of a 911 call or police report as an intimidation tactic against people of color is an unacceptable, abhorrent form of discrimination,” Gov. Murphy said in a statement, per CNN. “Individuals who choose to weaponize this form of intimidation should held be accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

In New Jersey, those who are found guilty of making racially-biased 911 calls will now face three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000 or both penalties.

The new law follows similar legislative measures in Washington, Oregon and New York. Earlier this week, California lawmakers passed the Caren Act into law, which makes filing a false police report based on race, gender or religion a hate crime punishable as a misdemeanor or felony.

“The current punishment for making a false police report does not address the growing number of cases of peace officers being summoned to violate the rights of, for example, Black and Brown individuals for doing day-to-day activities—essentially living their lives,” the bill states.

New York was prompted to adopt a similar law after Amy Cooper — a white woman walking her dog — called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher. After the viral incident, Amy was charged with making a false police report, which was already against the law. However, the new legislation makes it easier under civil rights law for victims of racist 911 calls to sue those who called the police on them “without reason.”

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