When seconds can mean the difference between life or death, there is no room for error and no room for pranks. Emergency response is serious business, but a growing group of reckless pranksters is taking pride and pleasure in detracting emergency dispatchers and responders from what could be the next dire emergency by phoning in bogus crimes-in-progress.
"When someone calls 911 with a fake emergency, it's called swatting, particularly if a SWAT team is called out," said Alan Barcelona. Barcelona is president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) which represents public safety dispatchers with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalFire communications operators. "When our dispatchers devote time to a hoax, that's precious time they are not devoting to real emergencies and real life-threatening events."
That is why state Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) has introduced Assembly Bill 47. AB47 would increase the penalties for false calls to 911. "Swatters" would face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to a year in jail. The penalty would increase to two years in jail if someone were hurt during the emergency response and the prankster could face a felony manslaughter charge if someone died as a result of the prank.
"CSLEA supports AB47 because it attempts to thwart this growing trend of tying up dispatchers who answer our cries for emergency help," said Barcelona. "Delaying a dispatcher and causing first responders to race to an emergency that doesn't exist just for the pure thrill of it puts lives in danger and causes additional, unnecessary stress to public safety professionals who are already under enough stress as it is."
AB47 exempts 911 calls made in good faith.