San Francisco lawmaker pitches CAREN Act to outlaw 'race-based and racially-charged' 911 calls

Shamann Walton says 'arbitrary 911 calls' are 'not a new phenomenon'

San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton joined "The Story" Wednesday to discuss the CAREN Act, Walton's proposed legislation that would punish so-called "false racially biased emergency reports."

"If you look at what's been happening across the country, you see people making these frivolous and these arbitrary 911 calls," Walton told host Trace Gallagher. "And so what happens? You put people of color in contact with law enforcement. And in some cases, there's some very dire consequences that can lead to harm to human beings.

"But in some cases, they've also led to death," Walton went on. "So no one should be calling 911 to weaponize 911 against people of color, black people or any other protected class."


The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. The name is a play on "Karen," a pejorative term that has come to prominence to label a demanding, middle-aged white woman who displays a sense of overbearing entitlement in various societal confrontations.

The term gained worldwide currency after a May 25 incident involving Amy Cooper, a White woman who called police on a African-American birdwatcher who had confronted Cooper about her dog being off its leash in Central Park's Ramble.

Walton told Gallager that similar cases have happened in San Francisco.

"We've had people in the Bay Area make calls to 911 when people were barbecuing. People are -- in front of their own home -- writing 'Black Lives Matter' in chalk and people have called the police on them.

"So this is really about protecting folks here in San Francisco, across the state and across the country," Walton said. "And this is not a new phenomenon. It's just happening that we're catching people right now. In fact, we can even go back to 1955, when Emmett Till was murdered and killed because of a frivolous and a fraudulent complaint on him."


Walton emphatically denied that his proposal would discourage people from calling the police in genuine emergencies.

"It's not an emergency to write 'Black Lives Matter' on your very own property. It's not an emergency to be in New York birdwatching," he said. "So when people want to say, 'This is going to stop folks from calling the police or make a dispatcher get nervous', no ... this is about discrimination. This is about people who are making race-based and racially-charged phone calls. And that has to stop."

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