Kentucky Senate Passes Bill Making Insulting Police Officers A Crime
The Kentucky state Senate has voted in favour of a bill which would make insulting or taunting police officers a crime.
After passing through an initial committee, Senate Bill 211 moved onto the Republican-controlled chamber where it passed 22-11.
From here, the bill will be debated by the House, which is also has a GOP majority. However, it’s not set to cruise through into law without a struggle, with some sharing concerns over whether it violates First Amendment rights and could hamper the judicial system.
Republican Senator Danny Carroll, a retired police officer and lead sponsor of the bill, earlier explained it was in response to the unrest in Louisville last year amid Black Lives Matter protests.
Some activists have described it as a ‘retaliation’, sparking further criticism after officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death were cleared.
As per the Louisville Courier-Journal, Senator Carroll said: ‘This is not about 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.’
The bill would see anyone who ‘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’ liable to being guilty of a misdemeanor as well as 90 days in jail plus fines.
Democratic Senator David Yates described the bill as ‘dangerous’, accusing the government of infringing on free speech and protest and arguing police officers wouldn’t be provoked by an insult.
He said: ‘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.’
Carroll argued: ‘In these riots, you see people getting up in officers’ faces, yelling in their ears, doing everything they can to provoke a violent response. 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 behaviour.’
Chanelle Helm, an organiser with Black Lives Matter Louisville, told Newsweek: ‘People are not shot and killed by police because they go and protest, we protest because people are getting shot and killed by police. They’re meaning to silence our voices, and that is against our constitutional rights.’
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