‘CAREN Act’ aims to punish racist 911 callers in San Francisco

Click to play video: 'Couple calls police on man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ on his own wall'
Couple calls police on man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ on his own wall
WATCH: James Juanillo shared video of a woman confronting him outside his house in San Francisco, Calif. , where he was stenciling the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on his retaining wall in June – Jun 15, 2020

Behaving like a “Karen” might soon come with a cost in San Francisco, where the city is mulling a bill that would punish anyone who makes a racist or discriminatory 911 call.

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced a proposal to city leaders on Tuesday that would make it illegal to fabricate a 911 report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation. He’s calling it the the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act — or the CAREN Act for short.

The name is a tongue-in-cheek nod to “Karen,” the viral nickname that has been used to label white women who raise their trivial complaints to a person in authority, whether it be a manager or the police.

The term has exploded in popularity in the midst of anti-racism protests in the United States. Many people have used the nickname to describe white women who call police on innocent people of colour.

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“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable,” Walton wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “That’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act.”

Perhaps the most high-profile “Karen” in recent months has been Amy Cooper, the white woman who called police on a Black birdwatcher after he asked her to leash her dog in Manhattan’s Central Park.

The birdwatcher, Christian Cooper, captured footage of the encounter, which shows the unrelated woman promising to tell police that an “African-American man” was threatening her life.

Police charged Amy Cooper with filing a false report earlier this week.

Click to play video: 'White woman calls police on a Black man for ‘threatening’ her after he asked that she leash her dog'
White woman calls police on a Black man for ‘threatening’ her after he asked that she leash her dog

San Francisco also saw its own “Karen” incident play out in June, when a white couple confronted a Filipino man outside his home for writing “Black Lives Matter” on his retaining wall. The couple claimed they knew who lived in the man’s home and threatened to call the police on him, video shows.

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The woman, a cosmetics CEO named Lisa Alexander, later issued a public apology for her actions.

“I am taking a hard look at the meaning behind white privilege and am committed to growing from this experience,” she said. “I should have minded my own business.”

Her partner, Robert Larkins, also apologized.

It’s already illegal to file a false police report in California, but Walton’s CAREN Act would make it unlawful for someone to fabricate a discriminatory report. The bill would also allow the target of the call to sue the caller in court, Walton’s chief of staff told Forbes.

A similar bill is in the works at the state level, although its name isn’t as catchy. State Assembly Member Rob Bonta’s bill would make it a hate crime to place a discriminatory 911 call, and would open the door for the victim to sue.

“This bill could protect millions of Californians from becoming targets of hate and prevent the weaponization of our law enforcement against communities of colour,” Bonta’s office said in a news release.

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He added that the law is not meant to discourage people from reporting real crimes or dangerous situations.

“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,” he said in the news release.

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