Kentucky Bill To Make Insulting Police Officers A Crime Passed First Round Of Voting
A Senate committee in Kentucky has shown its support for a bill that would make it a crime to provoke police officers with insults or taunts.
Titled Senate Bill 211, it passed by a 7-3 vote and will now proceed to the full Senate, where it could be passed as early as next week.
Sen. Danny Carroll, a retired police officer who sponsored the bill, said the proposal came about in response to protests last summer that called for police reform and an overhaul of the judicial system in the US.
Carroll claimed people had been ‘getting up in officers’ faces, yelling in their ears, doing everything they can to provoke a violent response’ during the riots, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.
Carroll continued: ‘I’m not saying the officers do [give a violent response], 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.’
The retired police officer stressed the bill wasn’t intended to limit lawful protest ‘in any way, shape, form or fashion,’ adding: ‘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.’
Protests were rife in Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, following the death of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot on March 13 when Louisville police raided her home.
If the bill goes ahead, a person would be guilty of disorderly conduct if they were to accost, insult, taunt, or challenge ‘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’.
Though the bill passed in the Kentucky Senate committee, State Sen. David Yates, a Louisville Democrat, criticised the bill’s language and pointed out that police officers he knows are too professional to have violent reactions because of something someone says.
He commented: ‘I don’t believe that any of my good officers are going to be provoked to a violent response because somebody does a ‘yo mama’ joke, or whatnot.’
Corey Shapiro, an attorney with the ACLU of Kentucky, told the Courier-Journal that to criminalise speech in such a way is ‘offensive’, adding that ‘verbally challenging police action — even if by insult or offensive language — is a cornerstone of our democracy.’
Though the bill could be passed in the full Senate next week, there may not be enough time left in the 30-day session for it to also make it through the House.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Most Read StoriesMost Read