New York City's Commission on Human Rights launched an investigation Wednesday into the incident involving a woman who called police after encountering a black man while walking her dog in Central Park.
The commission sent a letter to the woman, Amy Cooper, requesting her cooperation.
"At a time when the devastating impacts of racism in Black communities have been made so painfully clear -- from racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, to harassment of essential workers on the front lines -- it is appalling to see these types of ugly threats directed at one New Yorker by another," said Sapna V. Raj, Deputy Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
"Efforts to intimidate Black people by threatening to call law enforcement draw on a long, violent and painful history, and they are unacceptable."
The commission said it learned of the incident from the video recorded by Christian Cooper, an African American bird-watcher, who asked Amy Cooper, who is white, to put a leash on her dog. She responded by threatening to call the police.
"I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she is heard on video saying.
The commission has the authority to fine violators of the law and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. It can also order trainings on the NYC Human Rights Law, changes to policies, and develop restorative justice relief such as community service and mediated apologies, in lieu of or in addition to fines and monetary relief.
Cooper has been fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton. The Central Park Civic Association has called for her to be banned from the park.
"The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city's most famous park," Association president Michael Fischer said.