Lawmakers Consider Proposals Aimed To Quash Racially Motivated 911 Calls

Los Angeles News

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The hashtag #LivingWhileBlack has taken off on social media as videos have surfaced of incidents from Los Angeles to Portland, where people appear to be calling police based on a person’s skin color.

And as the Los Angeles Times reports, there has been a push to go after these callers.

Last April, cellphone and police cam video from Rialto caught national attention after showing officers questioning a group of black people who were checking out their Airbnb rental. A neighbor had called 911 reporting a possible burglary.

One of the women in the group was Bob Marley’s granddaughter who said she planned to take legal action over what she claimed was an excessive response to a racially motivated 911 call.

That same month, in Philadelphia, video surfaced showing two black men being confronted by police after they asked to use a Starbucks bathroom without first buying anything.

Another incident that sparked outrage was when a black Yale graduate student was questioned by police for napping in a dorm common area.

The Los Angeles Times reports that incidents like these are prompting elected officials in Michigan, Oregon and New York to introduce ordinances that would punish the caller through fines or a misdemeanor.

The Times says the bill backed by Oregon State Representative Janelle Bynum recently passed a committee to allow victims of racially biased 911 calls to sue the callers.

Bynum was a victim herself when a neighbor called police on her while she was campaigning in Portland.

According to the Times, opponents say making false crime reports is already illegal in most places and they question how police will determine whether the 911 caller was acting in a racist manner.

Opponents also worry if these potential laws could discourage people from calling police when there are real crimes.

CBS Los Angeles reached out to the Los Angeles Mayor and some City Council-members for comment, but have not yet heard back at the time of publication. It remains unclear on whether local elected leaders in the Southland would consider similar laws or ordinances.

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