NewsCovering Kern County


CA bill awaiting approval would classify "racist 911 calls" a hate crime

Posted at 7:22 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 22:22:48-04

A bill has been sent through the California Assembly and Senate that would classify “racist 911 calls” as a hate crime.

23abc’s Austin Westfall said the bill AB-1775 is about people who call the police in an effort to harass somebody based on their race.

One example is of a woman in New York a few months back and the video of the incident went viral.

The video was released in May and showed a woman calling the police on a black man in New York. The video went viral because the woman claimed he was threatening her life, when it appeared he really wasn’t. It’s situations like this that have inspired Ab-1775, which has passed the California Assembly and Senate. The bill would classify situations like this as a hate crime.

“If you're calling police because I'm black or I'm Hispanic, and you just don't like me being there, that's a hate crime.”said NAACP Bakersfield Executive Membership Chair, Shonna Strother.

Strother said this is a positive step toward accountability for anyone who’d consider calling the police for a bogus reason.

“It not only puts the person they’re calling the police on at risk, but it also ties up resources.” continued Strother.

Officials with both the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said they aren’t aware of any specific instances of racist 911 calls being made in their jurisdictions. But they do encounter situations where people report false emergencies.

California penal code section 148.3 said anyone who makes a false report, “is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.”

But officials said charging someone with a hate crime means you have to prove that there was racist intent. Which can be difficult.

“Because then you have to determine somebody’s frame of mind when they commit that act.” said Sgt. Robert Pair with the Bakersfield Police Department.

“But it's something that if you can prove somebody's mindset and why they called on someone, based on their race or gender, ethnicity, it’s something we can go forward with. But it is going to be hard to prove.” said Lt. Joel Swanson with the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

BPD said if you feel you’re being harassed by someone calling 911 on you, you should call law enforcement to get yourself on the record as well.

Strother’s biggest piece of advice is to pull out your phone and document what’s happening, just like the man in New York did.

“A lot of times, that's what saves these men and women, is the simple fact that they start recording.” said Strother.

Ab-1775 has not been signed in to law, it’s awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s approval.

Both KCSO and BPD said if it gets signed into law, they have the mechanisms in place to enforce it.