On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act. Under the CAREN Act, it is illegal to call 911 with the intent to discriminate against someone because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or place of birth.
“We want to make sure people don’t continue to weaponize emergency calls to law enforcement,” Supervisor Shannon Walton said.
Under this act, it will not only be illegal to make false, discriminatory calls to the police, but victims of such harassment will 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 added.
“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.”
In recent months, a number of instances in which a 911 call was seemingly made to discriminate against someone because of their race have gone viral. In nearby Oakland, California, a woman was caught on camera calling the police because Black residents were hosting a BBQ in the park. More recently, New York resident Amy Cooper was charged with a crime for making false claims to police regarding an interaction with Christian Cooper as he was bird watching in Central Park. As similar incidents have piled up on social media, support for the CAREN Act has grown.
“People with privilege like myself use that to our advantage sometimes and a lot of that uncertainity that comes from not knowing people of color allows us the space to make those accusations safely – and it’s gonna take a hard check to get some of that righted,” local resident Jason Powers said.
“So I think it’s an interesting and potentially game changing measure.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on the measure again. Then, it will head to the desk of San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
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