Bye, Karen: San Francisco Officials Move to Ban Racist 911 Calls

By Shani Saxon Oct 23, 2020

Shamann Walton, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, first introduced the "CAREN Act" (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) in July of this year. The ordinance is now one step closer to becoming a law, CNN reports. On Tuesday (October 20), the board unanimously passed the bill, and once the group takes a second vote next week, the ordinance will be sent to San Francisco Mayor London Breed for her signature.  

As CNN notes, the CAREN Act’s name is a play on “Karen,” the name the internet applies to racist people—usually entitled white women—captured on video making racially motivated calls to law enforcement.

Reports CNN:

The "CAREN Act" has been met with support and opposition since it was proposed. Several residents wrote letters to the board urging them to reconsider renaming the ordinance, citing it is sexist and targets people with the name of "Karen."

"The name of the act places a target on my name as a racist and I am not," one resident wrote in a letter to the board. "By associating the name ‘Caren’ or anyone elses name with such a law, really is offensive."

"I do not have objection to this act; the issue it is trying to address is wrong," wrote another resident. "I do strongly object to the the name. The insensitive choice of many people to use the name Karen as a general purpose term of disapproval for middle age white women needs to stop."

"The CAREN Act will expand the definition of a protected class in San Francisco to prevent false emergency calls with the specific intent to discriminate against a person or otherwise infringe the person’s rights or cause the person specified harms on the basis of the person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height," according to a press release obtained by ABC

Once the ordinance officially becomes law, a violation would allow for a civil cause of action for the victim of discrimination to recover at least $1,000 in damages, plus attorney fees, ABC reports. 

"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 color," the press release continued. "This is another form of racial violence instigated against people of color that causes further mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement."

California Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced AB 1550 bill, a similar statewide bill that would make it unlawful for people to make fake, racially motivated 911 calls. He tweeted about his support for the CAREN Act:


“This bill could protect millions of Californians from becoming targets of hate," Bonta added in an online statement. "[It would] prevent the weaponization of our law enforcement against communities of color.”