L.A. councilman wants to make it illegal to make racially biased 911 calls

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Amid growing calls for police reform and ongoing protests against racial injustice, a Los Angeles councilman introduced legislation Wednesday to make it illegal to call 911 to make a false or frivolous report based on racial bias.

The motion by Councilman Curren Price asks the L.A. City Attorney’s Office to find options for preventing the false and racist reports, including by enacting criminal penalties and creating a pathway for victims to seek damages, with the city covering the costs of services.

“Not only are false racially-biased 911 reports morally wrong but they are a drain to our City resources that can result in the false arrest of a victim or even worse, have life-threatening consequences,” Price said in a written statement.

The councilman pointed to a recent incident in New York, where a woman named Amy Cooper called 911 and accused a black man, Christian Cooper, of threatening her after he asked that she leash her dog while he was bird watching in Central Park.

“It’s time we have legislation that prevents other Amy Coopers who weaponize 911 emergency calls and terrorize citizens from communities of color,” Price said.

The motion says the racist callers often don’t face any consequences because there are no police reports taken after the calls. “Without a police report, there is also little recourse for the victim of this type of racially based 911 call to take action of their own,” the legislation reads.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra this week warned of “bias by proxy” that can happen when a person calls the police and makes false claims about people they have prejudice against. 

He called for police agencies to train their officers to avoid the bias when responding to the calls, among other proposed police reforms.

City Attorney Mike Feuer was asked to report back in a month with options for making the racist 911 calls illegal.

Price’s motion is the latest in the L.A. City Council’s efforts to make changes in response to the massive protests that continued for weeks across the city in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned beneath a Minneapolis police officer’s knee for more than seven minutes.

Thousands took to the streets of L.A. to decry Floyd’s killing and call for the defunding of Los Angeles police.

Council members on Tuesday voted to adopt a measure directing staff to look for up to $150 million in cuts to the LAPD budget, and ways to reinvest those funds to help disadvantaged communities in the city.

That same day, L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson announced he will introduce a motion to replace LAPD officers with “unarmed, non-law enforcement agencies who will be responsible for responding to non-violent calls for service.”

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