Under the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies (CAREN) Act, racially motivated 911 calls could now land you in legal trouble.
It was back in July when we first heard that District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton was introducing the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, rather humorously billed as the CAREN Act. And these stories of racially motivated 911 and police calls have meme’d the perpetrators into comically nicknamed quasi-celebrities like Permit Patty or COVID Karen, with the “OG Karen” BBQ Becky getting a brief send-up on “Saturday Night Live” in 2018. But for all the comedy gold that blogs like this have mined from these viral incidents, there is a flipside of painful racial hatred that the victims of these tantrums have to carry with them. (And sometimes those victims are 8-year-old girls.)
So it may put a damper on such things now that the Chronicle reports the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Caren Act on Tuesday, and its passage has drawn curious coverage from global media outlets like CNN, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, and more.
“We want to make sure people don’t continue to weaponize emergency calls to law enforcement,” Sup. Walton said in a statement to KPIX. “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."
Despite the unanimous passage, there was some public commenter pushback, unsurprisingly from a person named Karen. "The name of the act places a target on my name as a racist and I am not," one commenter told the board, according to CNN. "By associating the name 'Caren' or anyone else’s name with such a law, really is offensive."
The law does not mean a ‘Ken,’ ‘Karen,’ or ‘Gladys Kravitz’ will be thrown in jail for a suspected racially motivated 911 or police compliant. But it creates a provision that allegedly harassed victims can be sue their tormentors in a civil court over the incident, and adds discrimination factors like gender identity, age, and religion into consideration.
Walton’s bill passed the Board with a unanimous 11-0 vote, though still needs to go through the technicality of a second vote before going to Mayor Breed for her potential signature. Meanwhile, East Bay state Assemblymember Rob Bonta is introducing a similar bill that would potentially apply across California.
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