SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday to pass the Caution Against Racially and Exploitative Non-Emergencies (CAREN) Act that makes racially-motivated phone calls to 911 illegal.
It was first introduced in July after several high-profile incidents including a couple calling the police on a man writing “Black Lives Matter” in chalk in front of his own home in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.
The name is a clear nod to the online moniker “Karen” often used to describe the behavior of a middle-aged white woman acting entitled or demanding.
Plenty of videos have gone viral showing people making false accusations towards people of color, escalating the situation by calling the police. The public tends to see these calls as racially motivated, bringing up questions of whether they would be penalized for filing false police reports. This act is an effort to deter emergency calls of this nature and make justice for those who are wrongly accused in these instances of bias.
“The CAREN Act will expand the definition of a protected class in San Francisco to prevent false emergency calls with the specific intent to discriminate against a person or otherwise infringe the person’s rights or cause the person specified harms on the basis of the person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height,” according to a press release.
The act would accommodate a civil cause of action for the victim of discrimination to recover damages of at least $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees.
“When law enforcement responds to non-emergency calls as a result of the caller’s prejudice, discriminatory views, and racial bias, it diverts resources away from actual emergencies to the unnecessary policing of people of color,” according to the press release. “This is another form of racial violence instigated against people of color that causes further mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement.”