Berkeley Councilmember Proposes Ordinance that Would Outlaw Discriminatory 911 Calls

 

By Gibran Khalil

BERKELEY, CA – On October 11, 2022, Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison proposed an ordinance at the Berkeley City Council meeting to prohibit discriminatory calls to law enforcement. The ordinance prohibits calls against someone on the basis of race, nationality, sexual orientation, sex, religion, disability, place of birth, or creed, while also giving those who get called on for such reasons the power to pursue civil action against the caller. The proposed ordinance is almost certain to be adopted, with the intent to “explicitly prohibit frivolous reports, or to falsely report alleged criminal behavior, for what appear to be solely discriminatory reasons.”  

 

The ordinance is modeled after the CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Act passed in San Francisco in 2020,  named after “Karens” or white women who are caught exhibiting bias against people of color before calling the police on them. The Berkeley ordinance states that these discriminatory calls “cause serious harm to the person falsely accused of a crime, contribute to defamation, cause anxiety and distrust among people of color and other people, and put an unnecessary strain on law enforcement officers responding to frivolous and false calls.” Harrison herself cited “high-profile incidents in which people of color have been harassed through frivolous calls to law enforcement, including the BBQ Becky” incident at Lake Merritt and the dispute between a white dog walker and a Black birdwatcher in New York. In regards to the ordinance, Harrison stated that “I don’t think it will be invoked very often, but it’s an important tool.” 

 

While the ordinance takes a step forward in protecting people from discriminatory practices, incidents such as the ones cited ultimately point to an over-reliance on 911 and the police to begin with. Less than a ⅓ of 911 calls involve life-threatening situations, and fewer than 3% and no more than 7% of calls involve violent crimes. Furthermore, “an average of 19% of calls for service could be answered by unarmed crisis responders.” Despite the common conception that police protect and serve, the Supreme Court has also found that this notion is not within the rights or responsibilities of police. With such a low volume of 911 calls being made with the number’s intended purpose, some advocates assert that communally-based responses to issues from mental health crises to simple disputes are needed now more than ever. Such advocates believe that calling the police for discriminatory reasons only expands the issue of mass incarceration in the United States, as touchpoints with the carceral system are created from such calls. Those who are listed as subject to discrimination for a call to the police are also more likely to be arrested and arrested repeatedly, further contributing to the over 9 million people arrested each year

 

While outlawing such calls is an important step, organizations such as the Vera Institute of Justice believe that more response models are also needed to help people avoid the carceral system altogether. For this reason, the Vera Institute developed the Civilian Crisis Response toolkit, which is intended to guide advocates and practitioners to deliver more equitable crisis response services as opposed to policing. The toolkit was crafted through interviews with  “subject matter experts and local program stakeholders with professional and lived experience in behavioral health and crisis intervention, policing, 911 communications, peer support, research, and advocacy.” Ultimately, as explained by the Center for American Progress, ordinances such as the one discussed in this article reflect that “We need to stop expecting police to do social work and start sending the right trained professionals to address low-level crimes and noncriminal calls for service.”

Gibran is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Science and Ethnic Studies. He is originally from the Los Angeles area, and enjoys watching and playing soccer, listening to music, and discovering new food spots in his free time

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15 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    It’s already illegal to file false reports with the police.

    Referring to anyone as a “Karen” is a racist slur, itself.  At what point did this become “acceptable”?

    I can see that this law could have a chilling effect on reporting of crimes, if a suspect is not white or possibly Asian.  And would also likely discourage witnesses from describing a suspect.

    The ordinance prohibits calls against someone on the basis of race, nationality, sexual orientation, sex, religion, disability, place of birth, or creed, while also giving those who get called on for such reasons the power to pursue civil action against the caller. The proposed ordinance is almost certain to be adopted, with the intent to “explicitly prohibit frivolous reports, or to falsely report alleged criminal behavior, for what appear to be solely discriminatory reasons.”

    Uh, huh.

    Are there lots of people calling the police based upon the religion, disability, or place of birth” of a suspect? Do callers conduct interviews with subjects before calling the police?

    Honestly, I’m not sure that callers can even identify more obvious personal characteristics, when a suspect is underneath a car cutting-off a catalytic converter at night, for example.

  2. Ron Oertel

    he ordinance is modeled after the CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Act passed in San Francisco in 2020,  named after “Karens” or white women who are caught exhibiting bias against people of color before calling the police on them. 

    I tried to add the quote from above, but was cut-off.

    In any case, “Karen” is a racist, vile, and divisive term (which for some reason, has gained “official” approval among the “woke” crowd).

    Don’t tolerate this stuff, folks. Especially from any representative (or proposed law).

      1. Ron Oertel

        It’s not the behavior that’s referred to in that derogatory name, unless “Karen” might include someone other than a white person.  And it never does.

        This is the problem with the “woke” crowd – they don’t understand what racism actually is in the first place.

        Probably not an exact comparison, but what skin color comes to mind regarding “welfare queen”? Or, “hoodie-wearing thug”? How about “ghetto”?

        (Probably a bunch more we could explore on here. But somehow, derogatory terms against white people have gained “acceptance” among some – mostly among “woke white people”. While other derogatory terms are “banned”.)

        1. David Greenwald

          Karens are being singled out by their conduct, not because of their race. They singled out because they are behaving in a way that is “obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist”

          Bottom line is you’re offended by the wrong thing – the fact that someone is called a Karen rather than the behavior that led to that name in the first place.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Karens are being singled out by their conduct, not because of their race. They singled out because they are behaving in a way that is “obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist”

          Again, unless that (also) refers to some non-white people, the term itself is objectively racist.

          One of the articles linked to above shows that others are realizing this, as well.

          It’s not acceptable (any more than “ghetto queen” – or some derivative thereof), and I (for one) am not going-along with it.

          That is, unless all of the other slurs are “allowed” as well.

          It’s not so much the racist term that I find offensive – it’s the fact that only “some” are allowed (and outright encouraged) by the woke crowd. (These people are losing the overall “war” they’ve declared, by the way.)

          Not sure of the definition, but I believe the term might qualify as a “racist trope”.

          1. David Greenwald

            It just seems like you get more exercised by the label than the underlying conduct that is being called out.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I see that you didn’t like my original response for some unknown reason, so I’ll point out the following instead:

          Your comment regarding the “underlying behavior” could also apply to any racist label.

          Maybe it’s better to just stop using all racist labels, vs. encouraging those against particular groups (e.g., white people).

          As far as this particular racist term goes, I’ve seen plenty of “entitled” behavior across all skin colors.  Some people think they’re “entitled” to engage in crime and harm others, for example.

        4. David Greenwald

          What I think you’re missing is a Karen is not being called out because she is white (or a woman) but rather because they act in an entitled and possibly racist manner.

        5. Ron Oertel

          No, I’m not “missing” anything.

          If the term was also applied to those who aren’t white, then the term would not be racist.

          But that’s not the case.

          I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this basic concept eludes you.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Not sure what dictionary you’re using (or if it’s been “updated” by the woke crowd to reflect their beliefs), but calling particular skin colors by a derogatory name is racist.

          And not just according to “me”. One of your linked articles notes this, as well.

          If you’re using a different definition, the word itself has lost any relevant meaning. So, the next time someone calls another person a “racist”, perhaps they’re speaking two different languages.

          But if anyone calls someone else a “Karen” (and reserves that term for white people only), I’ll be labeling them a “racist”. And I won’t be the only one doing so.

          I’ll be an “anti-racist”, in that case.

          1. David Greenwald

            When you start using terms like “woke crowd” you’re appropriating language from right wing extremists.

            What is racism? “Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.”

            That is precisely the behavior that is being called out when people are called out as “Karens” Which is why I pointed out previously that you are more concerned with the language than you are the conduct in question here – discriminatory 911 calls that put people’s lives and liberty in jeopardy.

        7. Ron Oertel

          The “woke crowd” is a real thing, and they’re changing “official” definitions (e.g, in dictionaries).  I’ve seen an example of that.  As such, some definitions (especially in regard to issues such as racism) have changed.

          These are not exactly scientific terms in the first place.

          For that matter, some don’t seem to be able to define what a “woman” is these days. And that “used to be” a science-based term. Seems that some words have lost a lot of their meaning, indeed.

          If you ask an average person if it’s “racist” to call someone a derogatory name (which is only reserved for a specific skin color), I strongly suspect that they’ll say “yes”, regardless of how racism is now “officially” defined.

          Encouraging derogatory name-calling of specific skin colors is not helping with “behavior” or anything else.

          Again, I’ve seen plenty of entitled behaviors among all skin colors.  And yet, folks like you object to derogatory names based upon skin color – unless it’s directed at white people. You’re not going to “win” with arguments like this. And more importantly, “society” won’t win, either.

          Ironically, it’s usually “woke” white people who are using terms like “Karen”. (The same people who can’t define a woman.)

           

  3. alexsilver

    That’s definitely the biggest issue Berkeley has been facing 🙄. But thank god in a year 3022 our city council will stop discriminatory practices preventing building new housing as they don’t want poor and non-white folks living nearby.

    Shame that the city itself gonna pay for their bigotry views as Feds are suing them for breaking laws and none of them gonna be held personally responsible. Those guys are Ultimate Karens 👍 keep pumping prices for houses.

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