NJ now punishes police calls used as form of bias intimidation
It is now a criminal offense in New Jersey to file a false 911 call with the intention of intimidating or harassing a person based on race, gender, national origin or other "protected class" under existing discrimination laws.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed the legislation, which also amends current law to include false incrimination and filing a false police report as a form of bias intimidation.
The measure passed unanimously July 30 in the state Senate, and was passed by the Assembly in mid-June with 78 votes in favor and 2 Assemblymen not voting.
The new law follows a late June dispute in Montclair, in which a Black couple accused a white neighbor of calling in a false 911 call against them and accusing assault, after an argument over whether they had gotten the proper permit to build a stone patio in their own backyard.
“Using the threat of a 911 call or police report as an intimidation tactic against people of color is an unacceptable, abhorrent form of discrimination,” Murphy said in a written statement Monday. “This irresponsible misuse of our 911 system places victims in a potentially dangerous situation, and can erode trust between Black and Brown New Jerseyans and law enforcement. Individuals who choose to weaponize this form of intimidation should held be accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said calling in fake emergencies interferes with 911 operators trying to save lives and puts law enforcement at risk.
As of September, there are similar laws in effect in New York, Oregon and Washington.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed that state's legislation as part of a larger police reform package sent to his desk in June.
Lawmakers in California, Michigan and Wisconsin have been considering similar legislation, according to a blog post by Pew Charitable Trusts.
At the municipal level, a San Francisco city politician introduced the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act — or CAREN Act in July, as reported by NBC News.
The acronym is a reference to "Karens," an unflattering slang term for an angry, entitled, sometimes racist white woman, as defined by dictionary.com.
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