Hoping to protect police from the wrath of the public, a county in Upstate New York is about to pass a law that would make it a crime to annoy a police officer.
The Monroe County Legislative Branch drafted the bill in response to the videos from New York City showing citizens dousing NYPD cops with water. The NYPD, however, responded to those incidents by arresting several people without the need for a new law.
The proposed law which can be read here states that "a person is guilty of harassing a police officer, peace officer or first responder, that intends to annoy, alarm or threaten the personal safety of the police officer, peace officer or first responder."
Knowing that many cops get annoyed at people for exercising their Constitutional rights and alarmed when people record them in public – actions which are protected by the First Amendment – the proposed law is ripe for abuse.
Critics say the law in unconstitutional, according to the New York Post:
The legislature approved the bill by a 17-10 vote on Tuesday. The county executive will now hold a public hearing and decide whether to pass it into law.
The bill sparked outrage among groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“Members of the community have every right to challenge police officers, particularly those that engage in unnecessary behavior,” Iman Abid of the NYCLU said in a statement.
“At a time when more accountability of police departments is needed, this law takes us incredibly backward,” she added.
If enacted, anybody annoying a cop can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined up to $5,000. Federal legislators are considering a similar bill at the federal level which they call the Protect and Serve Act. It was passed by the House but appears to have been stalled in committees.