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Several thousand tenants along with city council & state assembly members staged a march across the Brooklyn Bridge for affordable housing. Assemblywoman Diana Richardson. – NEW YORK CITY – MAY 14 2015 (Shutterstock)
Albany, NY, June 10, 2020 – Today, legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson (D-Brooklyn) to create a civil penalty for the biased misuse of emergency services when there is no reason to believe a crime or offense is occurring, was passed by the Assembly.
“Calling 911 for non-emergencies prevents emergency responders from helping people who are actually in danger and poses an even bigger threat to people of color in the current political climate,” said Assembly Member Diana Richardson. “When officers report to a scene with limited information and that information sounds critical enough, they may respond with tactical force. As we have seen, it takes only a few seconds for a situation to escalate. This legislation sends the message loud and clear that it is not a crime for people of color to exist in public spaces, and it establishes a means of recourse should they encounter such treatment.”
The bill (A.1531-B) stipulates that any person who summons a police or peace officer without reason to suspect a violation of the law, criminal conduct, or an imminent threat to a person or property, but is instead motivated by a belief regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation, could be liable in a civil action for injunctive relief, damages or other appropriate remedies.
In recent years, emergency responders have received several 911 calls which report people of color simply for cutting grass, using a swimming pool, or selling water, most recently the case of Amy Cooper who called 911 in Central Park because an African-American birdwatcher asked her to leash her dog in the Ramble, where dogs must be leashed at all times.
These calls were motivated by ethnic and racial bias, rather than by any meaningful threat. Assembly Member Richardson’s legislation will prevent the misuse of 911, and ensure emergency services remain readily available for anyone in eminent danger.