Berkeley City Council passed an Ordinance on November 3, 2022 which prohibits discriminatory reports to law enforcement. Quote from Chapter 13.09.020 (a) and (b):
a. It shall be unlawful to knowingly make a false or frivolous call to police to cause a peace officer to arrive at a location to contact a person, with the primary intent to cause any of the following to occur, on the basis of the person’s actual or perceived Protected Attributes:
1. Infringe upon the person’s rights under either the California Constitution or the United States Constitution;
2. Discriminate against the person;
3. Cause the person to feel harassed, humiliated, or embarrassed;
4. Cause the person to be expelled from a place in which the person is lawfully located;
5. Damage the person’s reputation or standing within the community; or
6. Damage the person’s financial, economic, consumer, or business prospects or interests.
b. For purposes of this Chapter, “Protected Attributes” include race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height. (Ord. 7837-NS § 1, 2022)
In the introduction to this new law, Chapter 13.09.010, City Council writes: “There have been numerous incidents across the country involving individuals contacting law enforcement to report innocuous behavior as suspicious or to falsely report alleged criminal behavior, for what appear to be solely discriminatory reasons. Discriminatory law enforcement reports against people of color for racially motivated reasons are common enough that many people of color have experienced one or more incident of being contacted by law enforcement when engaging in normal day-to-day activities. These incidents cause serious harm to the person falsely accused of a crime, cause anxiety and distrust among people of color and put an unnecessary strain on law enforcement officers responding to frivolous and false calls.”
Read the complete Chapter 13.09 here: https://berkeley.municipal.codes/BMC/13
As background, Governor Newson, California Governor, signed AB 57, a bill Rep. Jesse Gabriel of District 45 introduced in October 2020. It was signed in early October 2021 and written as part of the California Penal Code under Crimes & Punishments / Civil Rights, Sections 422.55 to 422.6. To quote Section 422.55:
“‘Hate crime’ means a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: Disability, Gender, Nationality, Race or ethnicity, Religion, Sexual orientation, Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=422.55&lawCode=PEN Section 422.6. describes actions which indicate a hate crime and the punishments that apply.
San Francisco, took another step further and passed its CAREM “Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act” on October 20, 2020. Ashley Raveche, LWVSF Criminal Justice Committee, who worked along with the San Francisco Police Department in developing their policy on what is called Profiling by Proxy 911 calls, clarified that California State does not include the action of calling the police due to biased discrimination a hate crime. Reveche suggested using the term “hate incident” with enforcement falling under Civil Rights law. Here is Raveche’s quote from an email through the LWVC Criminal Justice Committee:
“Long and short is that under California law, it is not illegal to be biased and call the police. It is only illegal to call the police and make a false report.”
A subcommittee of the City Council, the Berkeley Public Safety Committee, met on 3/7/22. They agreed to send the Ordinance named “Adding a New Chapter 13.09 to the Berkeley Municipal Code Prohibiting Discriminatory Reports to Law Enforcement” draft to the City Manager to get an okay on going forward. As stated on the Agenda: “Refer to the City Manager to report to Council within six months with anonymized data and information regarding discriminatory reports to law enforcement.” Here is the link to Public Safety Subcommittee meetings: Policy Committee: Public Safety | City of Berkeley
Berkeley’s Fair & Impartial Policing Task Force (FIP) included recommendations for Bias by Proxy calls in their report. Interim Police Chief Jen Louis reported at the 9/20/2022 City Council meeting that the FIP’s recommendations were being implemented by training 911 dispatchers to screen for profiling by proxy calls. View City Council meetings at: https://berkeleyca.gov/your-government/city-council/city-council-agendas
Berkeley’s City Council Meeting of 10/11/2022 included item #16, an Ordinance to add Chapter 13.09 to the Berkeley Municipal Code which would prohibit discriminatory calls to police. It was read and then placed on the Consent Calendar for the City Council meeting of 11/3/22 wherein it was unanimously approved. Find this Ordinance here: https://berkeley.municipal.codes/BMC/13
Note that Chapter 13.08, written previous to the new 13.09, refers to making a false or fictitious call for assistance to police. That is a crime and has sanctions including possible time in jail. The new added 13.09 is written along with a statement of the social damage a 911 call with biased discrimination could cause. It includes a warning that it is possible such behavior could be seen as violating civil rights. For these reasons, a person making a discriminatory report could be fined and become subject to a civil court case.
There is much more information about how our legislators put this Ordinance into Municipal Code. This article is meant to inform but is not a complete picture. Please join the League of Women Voters Criminal Justice Team and be part of monitoring the work that our City Hall accomplishes. Go to https://www.lwvbae.org, and click on the Join button.
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