SACRAMENTO - Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) announced he will be introducing legislation that will help end discriminatory 911 calls motivated by an individual's race, religion, sex, or any other protected class by designating such reports as a hate crime. The legislation will also provide a civil remedy for those harmed by discriminatory 911 calls.
Under California law, it’s a criminal misdemeanor to make false police reports. However, the current law prohibiting false police reports does not include accountability measures to address discrimination if a person summons law enforcement because they perceive another individual to be a threat due to their race, religion, outward appearance, or inclusion in a protected class. While current hate crime law may be applied to a specific crime, it currently does not apply to the crime of making a false emergency report. Amendments to AB 1550 will address this gap by making clear that discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.
"Racism and discrimination of any form is morally repugnant. California must continue to reassert its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity,” said Bonta. “But those principles are being undermined by the persistent and, often fatal, presence of systemic and institutionalized racism, personal prejudice, and implicit bias in our society. AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others. This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”
The intent of AB 1550 is not to discourage individuals who are facing real danger or who seek to report a crime in good faith from calling 911. Instead, this bill could protect millions of Californians from becoming targets of hate and prevent the weaponization of our law enforcement against communities of color.
"Racist and discriminatory 911 calls are dangerous, demeaning and demoralizing to the person falsely accused. They further deteriorate community-police relations and contribute to the inaccurate and harmful over-criminalization of black and brown communities," said Bonta. "If you are afraid of a black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice."
Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader.