New Jersey makes racially biased 911 calls illegal

It is now a crime to make 911 emergency calls with reports based on race, religion, or gender. 

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed bill A1906 into law on Monday.
  • This means those making racist (or otherwise biased) 911 calls will now face 3-5 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. 
  • This comes after lawmakers have recognized people’s increasing use of the 911 call as an intimidation tactic.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Source: New York Post / AP)

Calling 911 and making false or biased claims can land you in jail.

This new legislation has been put in place to prevent discrimination against race – as well as religion, gender, disability, and sexual orientation among others. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy commented on the bill he signed on Monday as he explained:

Using the threat of a 9-1-1 call or police report as an intimidation tactic against people of color is an unacceptable, abhorrent form of discrimination […] This irresponsible misuse of our 9-1-1 system places victims in a potentially dangerous situation and can erode trust between Black and Brown New Jerseyans and law enforcement.

911 calls on innocent people of colour are a common occurence.

According to CNN, racially biased and false reports are a common occurrence nationwide. In fact, in a 2019 news article, Cedric L. Alexander gave several examples of such reports as he wrote that in April 2018, a 911 call was placed because 2 black men did not order anything while waiting for a friend in Starbucks. Similarly, the CNN reporter wrote that a Yale student had called 911 to complain about a black student sleeping in her dorm’s common room. These examples prove the importance of having this legislation passed. 

More recently, on May 25, 2020, a white woman called 911 with a racially biased, false report. 

Amy Cooper called the police on a black birdwatcher who had told her to put her dog on a leash in Central Park, New York. The man, Christian Cooper (no relation), recorded the woman and in the video, she is heard saying: “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Not long after the video went viral, the woman apologized and was fired from her job.

New Jersey’s latest legislation is vital for the fight against discrimination.

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