A Democratic Ditmas Park lawmaker is pushing legislation that would criminalize non-emergency calls to 911, arguing that gentrifiers are weaponizing the hotline against their neighbors after a white woman falsely reported a 9-year-old black boy for sexual assault last week.
“There are people across the country, and even right here in the people’s republic of Brooklyn, who are trying to weaponize the 911 system,” said state Sen. Kevin Parker, off-handedly referring to Kings County as a communist state while advocating a law that would give government more control over citizens on Thursday. “Currently, New York does not have anything on the books that would make that behavior illegal.”
Parker introduced his 911-misuse bill in August, in response to a number of white callers nationwide, including Park Slope’s “Doorway Debbie,” who reported black people for benign behavior over the summer.
And now he is demanding Gov. Cuomo convene a special session of the state Senate to pass the legislation that he said is even more necessary following the latest incident, which spread like wildfire on the Internet after a local shared a video of the woman calling 911 on the child for allegedly “grabbing her a--” inside an Albermarle Road bodega — a claim she later apologized for upon reviewing the store’s security footage, which clearly showed the boy’s backpack, not hands, brushed her backside.
Under Parker’s proposed law, any person found to have knowingly dialed the hotline to report a non-emergency would be slapped with a $900 fine or get three months in prison, according to the pol. In the most-recent case, for instance, prosecutors would need to prove the woman — whom outraged Internet users dubbed “Cornerstore Caroline” as video of her call went viral — intentionally reported the boy knowing he didn’t actually assault her, he said.
“At the point an arrest is made … it’s up to prosecutors to make the case,” Parker said.
Days after the Ditmas Park incident, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said on Twitter that his office would investigate the woman’s behavior, but his spokesman Oren Yaniv declined to comment on what charges the top prosecutor is pursuing.
Parker’s proposed bill isn’t the only legislation of its kind in the country — if it passes without changes, the pol’s bill would be functionally identical to a law in the city of Edmunds, Wash., where willful, first-time abuse of the 911 hotline is punishable by a $1,000 fine, or three months in jail.
But elsewhere, 911-misuse laws are more lenient, such as codes in the state of California that call for a warning for first-time offenders, followed by increasing fines of up to $250 on the fourth, and subsequent, offenses.
And in addition to introducing his own bill, Parker also signed on to similar legislation state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights) introduced earlier this year, after he claimed that a woman called 911 on him for “campaigning while black” outside a Prospect-Lefferts Gardens subway station during his failed bid to reclaim his party’s line in September’s primary election.
Hamilton’s bill, however, doesn’t deal with 911 misuses specifically, but instead would increase penalties on individuals who intentionally report false crimes against people based on their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, or any of New York State’s 22 protected classes.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, he likely won’t be around to champion that legislation come January due to his Democratic-primary loss to political newcomer Zellnor Myrie — unless he pulls off a come-from-behind win on Nov. 6, when he’ll appear on the general-election ballot on the Independence and Women’s Equality party lines.