Kentucky Senators Pass Bill That Would Make It A Crime To Say Mean Things To Cops

from the finally-getting-'contempt-of-cop'-added-to-the-law-books dept

A bill [PDF] that's likely headed to a dead end at the governor's desk or a state court targets protected speech that might make some cops angry. The bill may end up dead, but the Kentucky Senate still needs to explain how it let the bill pass, considering it contains this very, very stupid addition, presumably courtesy of the bill's sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll -- a former police officer.

The bill converts free speech into a second degree misdemeanor. And it only targets speech that targets certain public employees.

Accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.

That's right. Seven of ten Senators want to make it illegal to say bad things to police officers. Anything that "provokes" a cop is off-limits. And it assumes cops are "reasonable and prudent people." Maybe they are. But "reasonable and prudent" public servants -- especially those frequently engaged in heated situations where they're supposed to be the keepers of peace -- should have a higher bar to reach before they react to these undefined fighting words.

We should expect more from our cops. These state Senators want us to expect less. This conduct was never illegal before, but following protests in the state over killings by cops, people like Danny Carroll want to codify "contempt of cop."

Carroll insinuates cops are weak individuals who aren't able to keep their cool when confronted by unhappy members of the public. Maybe this is what's actually true. And a law like this allows them to act on their worst impulses and -- never mind the First Amendment -- actually punish people for engaging in what should be protected speech.

Behold your jackbooted snowflakes, apparently in need of protection from… syllables.

"In these riots, you see people getting up in officers' faces, yelling in their ears, doing everything they can to provoke a violent response," Carroll said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Yeah. That's kind of thing is going to happen during protests. And it's not a crime anywhere. According to Carroll's former cop mentality, it's the people who need to be punished for making cops angry, rather than cops for violating people's First Amendment rights.

The beatings will continue until police morale improves.

"I'm not saying the officers do that, but there has to be a provision within that statute to allow officers to react to that. Because that does nothing but incite those around that vicinity and it furthers and escalates the riotous behavior," he continued.

Carroll could not be more wrong. Cops should not be "allowed" to "react" to angry people saying angry things -- not by internal policy and very definitely not by state mandate. That's not how the law works and that sure as shit isn't how the Constitution works.

Everything Carroll offers in defense of his indefensible bill is… well, indefensible.

Carroll noted the bill wasn't about limiting lawful protest "in any way, shape, form or fashion."

"This country was built on lawful protest, and it's something that we must maintain — our citizens' right to do so. What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts," he said.

Ah, but it does limit lawful protests. It makes it illegal to say mean things to cops, which is something that happens at lawful protests. And no one crosses the legal line by being mean to cops. The law makes the logic of his statement conveniently circular. Make something that wasn't previously illegal illegal and suddenly things that never "crossed the line" into criminality will now will cross the line into criminality.

Saying protesters shouldn't do things that are illegal is incredibly disingenuous when you're passing an anti-protest omnibus that makes angering a police officer using nothing more than words a criminal offense.

And that's not the only thing the bill does. It redefines "riot" to mean any group of more than five people that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government functions." It provides sentence enhancements for engaging in rioting even if the person did not directly engage in the riots but committed a crime anywhere else "with knowledge that a riot was occurring." It denies probation or early release for anyone convicted of this new crime. It turns resisting arrest and obstructing traffic from misdemeanors to felonies if it occurs while a riot is taking place.

And it fights defunding efforts by mandating steadily increasing funding for law enforcement agencies:

Governmental entities responsible for the funding of the various law enforcement agencies shall maintain and improve their respective financial support to the Commonwealth's law enforcement agencies…

It's a whole pile of retaliation with some stupid dumped on top of it. These legislators think cops shouldn't have to deal with the consequences of their actions -- consequences that sometimes include violent riots. But then they don't think cops should just have to stand there and take when angry people shout angry things at them. These legislators are wrong about almost all of this, but especially wrong about that. If the governor doesn't send this pile of idiocy packing, a court will soon enough.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, insults, kentucky, police, speech, taunting


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:16am

    That politicians think that cops need extra protection show just how badly cops are failing at their job. It says nothing good about the politicians either·


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