California lawmakers passed a bill that would make it illegal to call the police on people for discriminatory reasons, including race and ethnicity.
The bill, AB 1550, would make it a hate crime to call the police on someone based on their race, religion or gender. If convicted, the caller could face jail time and fines up to $10,000. The legislation is designed to stop mostly white callers from weaponizing the police against innocent Melanated people. White women who are known for making these calls led to the creation of the term “Karen.”
“You can make jokes about it. But it’s not a laughing matter. An individual could lose their life in the wrong situation,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the bill’s sponsor, told The Los Angeles Times. “I was watching more and more people being adversely affected by it as this [Trump] administration gave license for someone who was bigoted to target Blacks and Latinos.”
The Assembly passed the bill on Monday and sent it to Gov. Gavin Newsom for review. The bill will not apply to calls from people who are intellectually or mentally disabled.
“What this bill does is address the misuse of 911, when it is used specifically as a harassment tool, or to result in a false police report aimed at harassing, a person based on either their skin color or one of the other protected characteristics,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who helped write the bill.
The passage of AB 1550 comes weeks San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton introduced Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, also known as the CAREN Act. The act was inspired by AB 1550.
“If you look at what’s been happening across the country, you see people making these frivolous and these arbitrary 911 calls,” Walton said in July. “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.”