Gov. Cuomo Backs Bill Criminalizing False Reports Based on Race After Viral Amy Cooper Video

"A false 911 call based on race should be classified as a hate crime in the state of New York," Cuomo said Friday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he supports a bill that would make it a hate crime to call the police on someone and make a false accusation against them based on their race, gender or religion.

The bill was first introduced by New York state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz in 2018, but it picked up momentum after a viral video last month showed a white woman frantically calling the police on a black man bird-watching in New York City's Central Park who had asked her to put her dog on a leash, as required by the section of the park they were in.

Amy Cooper, the woman, is heard on the video telling the black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), that she was calling the police and was "going to tell them there's an African-American man threatening my life."

Cuomo, 62, said late last week he wants the new bill passed now that the legislature is back in session, according to the New York Post — part of a group of police reform bills the governor is encouraging state legislators to pass in response to the ongoing unrest after the death of George Floyd.

“We’ve seen 911 calls which are race-based, false calls," Cuomo said at a press briefing last Friday. "A false 911 call based on race should be classified as a hate crime in the state of New York."

Cuomo called the bill one of the four "cornerstones of a real reform" he hopes to see soon pass in the state.

A violator could potentially face one-to-five years in prison, the Post reports.

Assemblyman Ortiz said he renewed his effort to pass the 2018 bill after the "horrific video" of Amy Cooper's altercation with Christian Cooper.

“How many more incidents like the one we witnessed [over Memorial Day weekend] where someone calls the police on a black man to falsely claim he was committing a crime and threatening them before we take action,” Ortiz said in a May 26 statement. “These incidents are not only racist and shameful but serious and dangerous to all involved. Too often, these incidents end in tragedy and we must take action to stop them for happening.”

Amy Cooper apologized after the video went viral. She was also fired from her job and briefly had her dog taken away.

Christian Cooper previously told CNN he taped the exchange "because I thought it was important to document things."

"Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery [a Georgia man fatally shot earlier this year], where black men are seen as targets," Christian said. "This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn't having it."

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Bennett Raglin/Getty

Oregon and Washington have already passed laws that criminalize calling the police for something that is not a crime, The Washington Post reports. New Jersey and Minnesota are also considering similar legislation.

The proposed bill in New York would "add falsely reporting an incident because of race, ethnicity, religion, race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation penalties as Hate Crimes in New York State," Ortiz said in May.

“When police are called believing they are responding to a violent attack or the alleged perpetrator is armed, there is a strong possibility that someone is going to be injured or killed,” he said. “When the incident is based on hate and racist beliefs, it makes the incident even more horrific. The time has come to send a message that these incidents will be considered hate crimes and they will be punished like all other hate crimes.”

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