Karening in San Francisco may soon come to an end.
This past week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton proposed the new “CAREN Act,” or the ‘Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act.’ And it has a similar aim to an amendment to act AB 1550 California Assemblyman Rob Bonta proposed this past month.
These policies are part of a new initiative within California’s state government to stop discriminatory 911 calls from being weaponized against people of color aka “Karening.”
What these policies do to Karening
The CAREN Act, which doesn’t just target Karens but anyone who makes a discriminatory 911 call, is similar to another part of California law known as act AB 1550.
This act has been in effect since last year, but it was recently amended in June to account for discriminatory 911 calls based on race, gender, appearance, or any other protected class.
Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that's why I'm introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting. This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. #CARENact #sanfrancisco
— Shamann Walton (@shamannwalton) July 7, 2020
Prior to the amendment, one major flaw was that AB 1550 only punished people who filed false police reports. What it didn’t do, however, was hold them accountable for making calls based on discriminatory reasons.
This new change to AB 1550, in addition to the newly-proposed CAREN Act, is meant to hold these people accountable and punish them for this discrimination.
Not only that, it also allows for these false 911 calls to be treated as a hate crime punishable by a felony or misdemeanor. Essentially, it’s turning Karens’ most often-used weapon right back at them.
Excited to announce our partnership with Supervisor @shamannwalton ! Today, we unveiled our two-prong strategy to join forces and stop discriminatory 911 calls: #AB1550 and the #CARENAct. Using 911 as a tool for your prejudice towards marginalized communities is unjust and wrong! pic.twitter.com/NBfBaLe6x2
— Rob Bonta (@AGRobBonta) July 7, 2020
According to the California Legislative Information website, AB 1550 makes false police reports in California punishable by up to a year in jail. Not only that, people harmed by these fraudulent calls to sue for damages up to $1000. If a false call contributes to any severe damage or harm against someone, they can then sue for up to $10,000.
Of course, Karens have to complain
Even with benign acts like the CAREN Act, AB 1550, or other similar policies, some people are critical about these laws. One prominent criticism is that supposedly people won’t be able to call 911 without being legally punished if a criminal happens to be a person of color.
The point of laws like these is to protect people of color targeted by false or non-emergency-related calls. They are by no means meant to make legitimate 911 calls punishable in any way.
A press release from the office of Rob Bonta, who proposed the recent amendment to AB 1550, says:
“The intent of AB 1550 is not to discourage individuals who are facing real danger or who seek to report a crime in good faith from calling 911.”
“Instead, this bill could protect millions of Californians from becoming targets of hate and prevent the weaponization of our law enforcement against communities of color.”
What makes Karening discriminatory and false as opposed to genuine should seemingly be a matter of common sense, but many on social media don’t always seem to know the difference.
So, if an African American man is murdering me, I'm no longer allowed to call 911 without being branded as a racist?
— Environmental Guy (@liamdude57) July 8, 2020
Yep, definitely can’t tell the difference…
The lack of common sense on half of these comments are astounding.what the act is trying to do is if you call the police and they deem it not worthy and that you're being racist you get in trouble but if it is worthy you have noting to worry about
— Ryche_ (@Rychegaming) July 8, 2020
Oh no, it was only a matter of time before we got a Karen here:
Your Acronym is offensive. Please change the name as it is offensive and it targets people.
— Asset One Realty Inc (@ScottnWendy1) July 8, 2020
The CAREN Act, AB 1550, and similar policies aren’t meant to take away the significance of reporting criminal acts whatsoever. In fact, they’re meant to improve people’s protection by ensuring not only that people of color aren’t adversely targeted by law enforcement, but also so law enforcement are using their resources to deal with legitimate and actually important crimes.
California isn’t alone in this
California isn’t the only place to have laws like AB 1550 or proposals such as the CAREN Act. Other states such as New York, Oregon, and Michigan have either introduced or passed similar policies in their state legislatures.
Not only that, but these do have real legal impact. One woman who called the police on a man in New York’s Central Park in an incident which has gone viral, all because he asked her to leash her dog per park policy, is now facing charges for the fake 911 call.
The measures various states are taking to hold people accountable for making discriminatory 911 calls are big steps in many communities.
Even if they are taking effect at just the local or state level, these laws are great safeguards for people of color. Hopefully similar measures will eventually cover every state in America, so watch out, Karens. Your days are numbered.