[guest post by Dana]
A bill moving through Kentucky’s Senate would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer during a riot. Supporters say the bill targets people who unlawfully “cross the line” but opponents call it a blatant attempt to crush protests and a violation of First Amendment rights.
Senate Bill 211 mandates up to three months’ imprisonment for a person who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words,” or makes “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.”
A person convicted of this misdemeanor charge could also face a $250 fine and be disqualified from public assistance benefits for three months.
Uh, hold on sec…I have questions. Is the default position going to be that it is always the police officers who are the reasonable and prudent ones? Because I can think of a few police officers who recently demonstrated to the world that they were anything but while on the job… With that, how do the bill’s proponents define a “riot” versus a “protest”? That seems important. And what constitutes whether an insult or taunt is worthy of an arrest? What happens if Officer A has a taunt directed at him by Protester X and doesn’t feel insulted or provoked, but when Officer B is faced with the same taunt, he is highly insulted and feels provoked? Are there going to be specific buzz words that will determine whether the insult or taunt qualifies for an arrest? What level of emotion must accompany the insult or taunt to qualify as unacceptable? Do the protesters have to be in their face or space for it to qualify for arrest? Must the insults or taunts be shouted or screamed to qualify for an arrest? What about if it’s delivered in a loud voice? And what sort of insults are we talking about? If a protester calls an officer a “pig,” or a “fatty pie,” or a “ratfucker,” do they all meet the threshold for arrest? Also, what “gestures” will result in an arrest? If a protester gives the officers the finger, or flashes a “Q” sign, or plugs his nose while pointing to them, do those count? And exactly what and where is “the line” that is not be crossed? What does it look like in real terms? To me, it all seems a bit vague, as well as arbitrary and subjective. And I say this as someone who respects and supports law enforcement and has almost no tolerance for anyone getting in the face of others, including protesters. But this is not that.
According to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, the bill is the result of the tumultuous protests that took place in Louisville last summer.
Retired police officer and state Senator Danny Carroll offered this explanation for the bill:
“This is not about lawful protest in any way, shape, form, or fashion,” Carroll says. “This country was built on lawful protest and it’s something we must maintain our citizens’ right to do so. What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts.”
“If you see the riots, you see people getting in these officers faces, yelling in their ears, doing anything they can to provoke a violent response,” he adds.
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.
However, when CBS News requested a comment from Carroll, he said this after seeing the outlet’s headline Kentucky bill would make it a crime to insult a police officer:
After looking at you’re headline, I don’t think I have anything to say to you. I miss the time when we actually had unbiased journalists!!
The bill also has a provision pushing back on the “defund the police” movement, stating that government entities that fund law enforcement agencies must “maintain and improve their respective financial support.”