In a controversial move, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would make harassment of a police or peace officer a crime. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Joe Griffo (R-C-I, Rome) makes it a felony to “harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty,” punishable by up to four years in prison.
“Our system of laws is established to protect the foundations of our society,” Griffo said in a statement. “Police officers who risk their lives every day in our cities and on our highways deserve every possible protection, and those who treat them with disrespect, harass them and create situations that can lead to injuries deserve to pay a price for their actions.”
Griffo said that incidents of disrespect and confrontation are at an all-time high and something needed to be done to offer men and women on patrol more protection.
“My bill would make it a crime to take any type of physical action to try to intimidate a police officer. This is a necessary action because we can see from the rise in incidents that too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer.” Griffo said. “We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty.”
The measure has the support of law enforcement officers.
“Professionally, I am grateful to see this bill pass through the Senate. Our police officers have a very dangerous job and need the support of our government leaders to help make them safe,” Utica Police Department Chief Mark Williams said. “All too often persons are physically challenging police officers in the line of duty.”
But while protecting police officers is a good idea, there may be questions as to where the boundaries should be drawn to prevent excessive police force on individuals. According to an example in a report by RT.com:
In May 2011, New York homeowner Emily Good was arrested by Rochester police while standing in her yard and videotaping police officers who were performing a traffic stop in front of her house.
When one of the officers asked Good what she was doing, Good replied, “I’m just recording what you’re doing; it’s my right.” The officer then told Good that “we don’t feel safe with you standing right behind us while we’re doing a traffic stop,” and ordered her to go inside her house.
When Good insisted on her right to stand in her yard, she was arrested, handcuffed, and taken away in a police car. She was later charged with obstructing governmental administration.
The bill is being sent to the Assembly for a vote.
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