Racially motivated 911 calls (which have occured forever) maintain a large presence today, showing up in social and mainstream media. However, things may soon begin to change due to the recent passage of the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act (CAREN Act) which criminalizes such behavior. The ordinance was introduced to San Francisco legislation in July and was passed unanimously in October. Several state legislatures, including California, are currently considering similar actions.
This act is one important and necessary step in legally protecting Black and brown Americans from experiencing negative—even fatal—interactions with the police. The author of the CAREN Act, Supervisor Shamann Walton said, “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.” Now, even the racist 911 calls that aren’t recorded and catapulted into the national spotlight will be criminally held accountable. As a deterrent, the act can discourage unnecessary calls to the police which divert funding from real incidents.
While the CAREN Act is currently necessary to protect the lives of Black and brown Americans, it only appraises symptoms of the larger problem the nation faces: deeply systemic and institutionalized racism. It’s an initial step of the larger, sweeping reform that must overhaul the American law enforcement system.
Author: Jacqueline Kwan
Editor: Astrid Chen
“San Francisco official proposes 'CAREN Act,' making racially biased 911 calls illegal” (CNN)
“San Francisco Outlaws False, Racist 911 Calls With ‘CAREN Act’” (FORBES)
“CAREN Act: San Francisco officials vote unanimously to ban racially-motivated 911 calls” (ABC 7)