Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) says he is introducing legislation that would outlaw discriminatory calls to 911.
But it is unclear from his announcement who would determine whether the caller was acting with a discriminatory animus.
Maybe the police? But that’s quite a lot of latitude to give them–especially since they are supposedly lawless themselves currently and constantly abusing the rights of innocent people.
The legislation Bonta is pushing would make it a hate crime to call 911 because of a person’s race or gender or protected class. It would also allow the person who is the victim of the discriminatory call to sue the caller for damages.
Bonta’s office noted that the “the current law prohibiting false police reports does not include accountability measures to address discrimination if a person summons law enforcement because they perceive another individual to be a threat due to their race, religion, outward appearance, or inclusion in a protected class.”
“Racist and discriminatory 911 calls are dangerous, demeaning and demoralizing to the person falsely accused. They further deteriorate community-police relations and contribute to the inaccurate and harmful over-criminalization of black and brown communities,” the Assemblyman stated. “If you are afraid of a black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice.”
“Racism and discrimination of any form is morally repugnant. California must continue to reassert its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity,” he argued. “But those principles are being undermined by the persistent and, often fatal, presence of systemic and institutionalized racism, personal prejudice, and implicit bias in our society.”
“This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”
Actually, the legislation could endanger Californians because they might be fearful about reporting possibly criminal behavior for fear of getting arrested themselves.
People often call 911 because of suspicions. Sometimes suspicions are justified. Sometimes they are not. That’s why you call the police–so they can figure out what is going on.
The legislation was apparently prompted by the slew of viral stories about white people calling the police on blacks who they find to be engaging in problematic behavior. But in these cases evidence is rarely offered that the caller was motivated by discriminatory animus.
It is, instead, continually assumed.
In one incident in Oakland that went viral a white woman, dubbed “Barbecue Betty,” called the cops on a family for supposedly having a barbecue in an undesignated area.
Maybe she was a bigot? Or maybe she was just super uptight?
Traditional hate crime legislation requires some evidence of overt discrimination. Like somebody yelling racial slurs at somebody he is attacking. But there is nothing in Bonta’s statement that indicates he is planning on establishing objective standards for determining discrimination.
Bonta’s office did not reply to requests for comment.