Gainey, Cephas legislation aims to combat false reports to law enforcement

Bills would increase penalties for false reports, hold people accountable

HARRISBURG, April 15 – In response to increased calls to law enforcement over crimeless activities, state Reps. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, and Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., plan to introduce two bills that seek to put an end to false reports of crime to law enforcement.

The first proposal, H.B. 1198 would protect Pennsylvanians from ethnic intimidation by increasing penalties for people who file a false police report with malicious intent toward a person’s race, color, national origin or religion. This bill would also add sexual orientation to the current ethnic intimidation statute. That way, people who file a false police report with malicious intent toward a person’s sexual orientation, they could face criminal charges.

The second proposal, H.B. 1199 would hold businesses accountable for the actions of their employees in this matter. Under this bill, if an employee of a business files a false police report with malicious intent toward a person’s race, color, religion, or sexual orientation, the victim could seek damages from the employer. It would also raise the damages from $500 to $5,000 for civil rights violations.

“Too many times, we’ve seen or heard of people calling the police on other people based on the color of their skin or the religion they practice. Police were recently called on a group of Black golfers because they were ‘golfing too slow,’” Gainey said. “As lawmakers, it’s our responsibility to protect all Pennsylvanians from being mistreated.”

There are several examples of false reporting to law enforcement across the country. In addition to the previous case of police being called on a group of Black golfers in April 2018 at a golf course in York, PA, the police were called on a Black man in New York City who asked a White woman to leash her dog in the park. Additionally, police were called on a group of Black men and women having a barbecue in Oakland, CA.

“When law enforcement is called to a scene for no reason other than a person’s race, it’s not only ethnic intimidation, but it takes the police away from more important matters,” Cephas said. “This legislation would increase penalties for falsely reporting crimes based on race or sexual orientation and hold people accountable for their actions.”

The legislators said the bills will soon be referred to committees for further action.