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Some false police reports could be a hate crime under proposed New York law

Woman falsely accuses black man in 911 call
Woman falsely accuses black man in 911 call 01:58

Proposed state legislation in New York would make falsely reporting certain criminal incidents a hate crime. The bill is gaining support in the wake of a viral video that showed a white woman calling police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. 

In the video, the woman, Amy Cooper, is seen telling dispatchers that an African-American man is threatening her life. The video, however, shows no threat. Cooper later apologized after widespread outrage.

Legislation first proposed in 2018 by New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and introduced in the state senate this week by New York Sen. Brian Benjamin would make it a hate crime to falsely report certain criminal incidents against protected groups of people. 

"This feels like terrorism to me to be to be really frank, because it's just something that's so scary," Benjamin, a Manhattan democrat, told CBS News correspondent Mola Lenghi.   

Hate crime "enhancements" add additional penalties on top of sentences for other crimes, such as harassment or assault, if the victim is targeted because of their race, religion, or other protected characteristic.

In a statement, Benjamin said he worried that if she had not been filmed, "this woman may have been given the benefit of the doubt, and that this man could have faced serious, perhaps life-threatening consequences."

The New York City Commission on Human Rights is investigating Cooper, the agency announced Wednesday. The agency enforces the human rights law, which prohibits discrimination and harassment in housing, employment and all public accommodations in New York City. The human rights law makes it illegal to threaten to harm someone based on their race or other protected category.

 "Efforts to intimidate black people by threatening to call law enforcement draw on a long, violent and painful history, and they are unacceptable," Sapna Raj, deputy commissioner of the commission's law enforcement bureau, said in a statement. "We encourage Ms. Cooper to cooperate with the Commission and meaningfully engage in a process to address the harm that she has caused."

-- Mola Lenghi contributed reporting.

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