In response to ongoing examples of people making false accusations against black Americans in an effort to threaten them, four Assembly Democrats sponsor a bill that would make it a crime to call 9-1-1, file a police report or incriminate someone under false pretenses in order to intimidate them on the basis of race or any other protected class. The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee unanimously advanced the legislation Monday.
Bias intimidation is a crime in New Jersey that involves someone committing or attempting/threatening to commit certain offenses against someone else in an attempt to intimidate them because of their race or ethnicity, religion, gender or gender identity/presentation, sexual orientation, disability or nationality. Under the bill (A-1906), the list of underlying offenses for bias intimidation would be expanded to include falsely incriminating or filing a report against someone because of their identity.
The legislation would also make it a third degree crime to place a 9-1-1 call with the purpose of intimidating or harassing someone on the basis of their protected class.
Upon the bill’s passage, Assembly sponsors Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer) and Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex) released the following joint statement:
“The recent story of Amy Cooper – a white woman who called the police on a black man in Central Park, claiming he was threatening her after he simply asked her to leash her dog – is only one of many incidents over the years of people falsely calling 9-1-1 on black Americans.
“From sitting in a Starbucks to sitting on a park bench, black people cannot go about their day without the threat of someone calling the police on them for doing absolutely nothing.
“At best, the callers were dangerously blind to the true harm they could cause by calling the police under false pretenses. In reality, it’s far more likely they knew exactly what they were doing when they called the police on harmless individuals while identifying the ‘threat’ as African-American.
“Throughout history, there have been far too many examples of false accusations by white Americans leading to the tragic scapegoating and murder of black Americans. Emmett Till was only 14-years-old when he was lynched because Carolyn Bryant Donham lied about him sexually assaulting her.
“With the ongoing George Floyd protests further highlighting the turbulent relationship between police officers and the black community, the insidious threat of a false 9-1-1 call or police report has never been clearer.
“We cannot allow anyone to call the police or file a report against someone simply because they do not like the victim’s race, gender, religion or some other identifier. The police are not personal enforcers to be called whenever someone’s identity offends you – they are to be called in the event of a true emergency.
“Black New Jerseyans have every right to live their lives without the threat of arrest or violence hanging over their heads. It’s far past time our state makes it clear that this intimidation will not be tolerated here.”