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San Francisco Board Unanimously Passes ‘CAREN Act’ to Make False, Discriminatory 911 Calls a Hate Crime

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve the Caution Against Racially and Exploitative Non-Emergencies (CAREN) Act – a new hate crime law that makes it illegal for someone to call the police based on a racially-biased and false complaint, local news outlet KTVU reported.

The name is a nod to the pejorative term “Karen,” the name commonly used on the internet to refer to the slew of middle-aged white women who have been caught on camera calling 911 on people of color who hadn’t done anything wrong.

“The CAREN Act will expand the definition of a protected class in San Francisco to prevent false emergency calls with the specific intent to discriminate against a person or otherwise infringe the person’s rights or cause the person specified harms on the basis of the person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height,” a press release from the board said.

The Act allows for victims of 911 calls motivated by racial or other discriminatory animus to recover damages of at least $1,000 plus attorney’s fees.

“Today the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, aka CAREN Act, on first reading (1 more reading next week), 911 calls, are not customer service for people’s racism,” Shamann Walton, the supervisor who introduced the legislation, said following the vote.

In the hours prior to the vote, Walton, who is Black, reiterated that summoning law enforcement out of racial animus can be extremely dangerous. He listed several examples in which people of color were targeted with false accusations of wrongdoing with tragic results, including the death of Emmet Till, the Los Angeles Times reported.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, one of the primary drivers of the CAREN Act was an incident that took place in July. A white couple called the police on James Jaunillo, a Filipino man who was stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in chalk in front of his home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights.

Juanillo filmed the incident and posted the video to social media referring to the “Karen” who called the police on him, later identified as Lisa Alexander. The video quickly went viral, garnering well over 23 million views.

“A white couple call the police on me, a person of color, for stenciling a BLM chalk message on my own front retaining wall. ‘Karen’ lies and says she knows that I don’t live in my own house, because she knows the person who lives here,” Jaunillo wrote on Twitter.

[images via Twitter and YouTube screengrabs]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.