The CAREN Act: New law to make fake, racist 911 calls a crime inspired by a gay man’s ordeal passes unanimously

Patrick Kelleher
·2-min read

The CAREN Act – a law to make fake, racist and discriminatory calls to 911 a crime in San Francisco – has been passed unanimously by lawmakers.

The San Francisco law – which stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies – will impose criminal charges on people who file false police reports motivated by discrimination, according to ABC7.

The ordinance was introduced by supervisors Shamann Walton and Matt Haney in July after a number of “Karens” made headlines by filing false, racist reports in city parks, at farmers’ markets and at Black Lives Matter protests.

The act was introduced just weeks after a white woman called the police on gay Filipino man James Juanillo for stencilling “Black Lives Matter” on his own property in chalk.

San Francisco supervisors voted unanimously in favour of passing the new act on Tuesday (October 20).

The CAREN Act will expand the definition of a protected class in San Francisco to prevent fake emergency calls “with the specific intent to discriminate against a person or otherwise infringe the person’s rights or cause the person specified harms”, according to a press release from San Francisco supervisors.

CAREN Act means Karens could have to pay victims $1,000.

Under the terms of the act, people who make fake 911 reports about a person from a protected category could end up paying the victim damages of up to $1,000 plus legal fees.

“When law enforcement responds to non-emergency calls as a result of the caller’s prejudice discriminatory views, and racial bias, it diverts resources away from actual emergencies to the unnecessary policing of people of colour,” the press release said.

“This is another form of racial violence instigated against people of colour that causes further mistrust between communities of colour and law enforcement.”

The act was introduced in July after Lisa Alexander, CEO of cosmetics company LaFace Skincare, was accused of assuming Juanillo did not own his own property because he is Filipino. She proceeded to call the police on him.

Reflecting on the exchange at the time, Juanillo said: “You can presume that she knew by calling the police that I could possibly die. She was OK with that.

“Even knowing that I was just working with chalk, she’s willing to call men with guns.”

Alexander has publicly apologised and acknowledged that her actions were racist.