Bill Combating False and Racially Motivated 911 Calls Moves Forward

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s Public Safety Bill Is First of Its Kind State Policy to Deal with Rise in Discriminatory 911 Calls and False Police Reports

LOS ANGELES, California – (August 20, 2020) – Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s (D-Huntington Park) legislation dealing with the growing misuse of the 911 emergency system to attack people of color has passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 7-0 vote. AB 1775 increases the criminal penalties imposed when a person knowingly makes a false 911 call for the purpose of harassing another. The strongest penalties are imposed when a false 911 call is based on a person’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, place of origin, or other protected characteristic.

AB 1775 has received broad support from 911 dispatch operators, social workers, police unions and sheriffs, as well as cities and municipalities representing diverse communities. The bill has no registered opposition.

"We are proud to support AB 1775," said Rebecca Gonzales, Director of Government Relations for the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter. "As social workers, we are taught to speak out when we see injustice, which includes the systematic racism that exists against communities of color and discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities. AB 1775 will prevent our 911 emergency system from being used to contribute to the criminalization of Black and Brown communities which has increased the stress and mental health issues they may already be experiencing. Simply put, no one should be the subject of a 911 call because others can’t accept them for who they are as persons of color.” said Gonzales.

There has been increasing reports of 911 calls made by individuals whose sole basis for calling has been to threaten or intimidate another individual based on prejudice.

The Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976 provides that all persons have the right to be free from violence, or intimidation by threat of violence, based on a person’s perceived or actual race, gender, age, sexual orientation or other protected classes. AB 1775 will classify intentionally false reports to law enforcement as a form of intimidation, allowing the victim of these calls to initiate a civil action against the person who knowingly made the false report.

People of color are frequently viewed with suspicion, unfairly subjected to false accusations of criminal behavior, and ultimately confronted by police officers or armed civilians for simply existing in public spaces.

The bill adds legal consequences for those who deliberately misuse the emergency system to knowingly place a person of color or other protected persons in real harm.

“California’s 911 dispatchers are career professionals who answer over 27 million calls annually. Abuse of the 911 system has a detrimental effect to those with real life-threatening emergencies. Using 911 to harass fellow citizens goes against our primary goal of helping those in need. We are pleased to support AB 1775 as it is aligned with our values as an organization and profession,” said Lee Ann Magoski, President of the California Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA).

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, crafted AB 1775 to end this unconscionable behavior and, for the first time, provide civil remedies for victims of these calls, all while protecting valuable first responder resources for use in true emergency situations.

“The 911 emergency system is not designed to be a dispatch center for racist or biased callers seeking police action against a law-abiding citizen. The misuse of the system against a person of color, places that person in imminent peril as police officials may interpret the situation incorrectly due to the nature of the false report, resulting in potentially devastating outcomes. Today’s bill will protect vulnerable members of our community and send a clear signal that racism, intolerance and hate have no place in California,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer.

AB 1775 moves to a floor vote next week before heading to the Governor for consideration.

###

About Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer

Reggie Jones-Sawyer represents the constituents of California’s 59th Assembly District (So. LA area) in the State Legislature. Chair of the Public Safety Committee and Member of the Select Committee on the California Census Count, Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer is a fierce proponent of second-chances and fairness within the law.

A champion of minority, social justice and civil rights causes, Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer has authored, and had signed into law, legislation related to ending discrimination in housing, providing mental health grants, supportive services to schools, and expanding opportunities and growth to small and start-up businesses.

Contact
Richard Garcia
Richard.garcia@asm.ca.gov
(213) 744-2111 or (323) 201-1261 (cell)