Submitted by Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
There is a new bill passed by the New York State Senate that relates to many of the blogs and discussions we have had here through the years. This bill would make it a felony to “annoy” a police officer acting in the course of his duties. While I can understand that directly interfering with a police officer in the middle of his duties should not be done, we have seen through the years that the police broadly interpret what is “interference” to include what is obviously a person exercising their First Amendment rights, such as responding negatively to a police officers actions or videotaping them. I find this law another distressing example of how far we are going in the direction of a police state, since as we have seen in our many blogs and discussions here it will be abused time and again. I will have several links at the bottom to illustrate some of the issues dealing with purported “police interference on the Jonathan Turley Blog alone.The New York State Senate passed a bill Wednesday that makes it a felony to “harass, annoy, threaten or alarm” an on-duty police officer. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Pat Gallivan, George Maziarz, Michael Ranzenhofe and Joe Griffo, seeks “to establish the crime of aggravated harassment of a police officer or peace officer.”
“Police officers who risk their lives every day in our cities and on our highways deserve every possible protection,” Mr. Griffo told WIVB 4. “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.”
A press release from the New York State Senate originally stated, “The bill (S.2402), sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo (R-C-I, Rome) would make it a felony to harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.” However, WIVB 4 notes that as the bill is written, a person would be guilty of aggravated harassment if he or she contacted the officer physically with the intent to “harass, annoy, threaten or alarm.” The legislation is now on its way to the State Assembly. If it becomes law, anyone found guilty could face up to four years in prison, WIVB 4 reports.Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/6/untouchables-ny-bill-would-make-annoying-police-fe/#ixzz2VY1tw9wJ
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The following are some stories we’ve dealt with here in the past that deal with the consequences of “annoying” the police. I use them as backup for my assertions that this prospective law in New York State will be use to further insulate police from discipline, while it disciplines the public for daring to question some actions taking place right before their eyes.
Baltimore police sued for allegedly beating and arresting a woman who filmed them.http://jonathanturley.org/2013/05/21/baltimore-police-sued-for-allegedly-beating-and-arresting-woman-who-filmed-them-in-public/
San Diego police arrest man saying his cell phone is a weapon and so arrest him when he refuses to stop filming them.http://jonathanturley.org/2013/04/11/san-diego-police-tell-man-that-his-cellphone-is-a-weapon-and-arrested-him-after-he-refuses-to-stop-filming-them-in-public/
In this next blog a physics major who got the best of a police officer, as shown on tape, could have been charged with a felony for his answer for irritating (annoying) the police officer. .http://jonathanturley.org/2013/05/17/physics-major-school-police-officer-on-math-in-roadside-stop/#more-64383
In this case the young make pranked the officer but was arrested for filming the incident. http://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/19/61924/
In Florida the police charged a man with assault after they beat and tasered him was caught on video.http://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/15/video-florida-police-officers-charge-man-with-assaulting-them-after-one-beats-him-without-provocation-and-a
In the next one Montgomery Alabama police arrest a citizen for filming them. http://jonathanturley.org/2013/02/25/montgomery-police-arrest-a-citizen-for-filming-them-in-public/
Here is the story of a Minnesota man arrested by police after he filmed them. http://jonathanturley.org/2013/01/09/minnesota-man-criminally-charged-after-filming-police-in-public/
These 6 stories are all from the beginning of 2013 until now on our blog. You will note that they all related to videotaping police officers in the course of their duties. We already have court cases that have ruled that videotaping police is protected by the First Amendment. http://peacefreedomprosperity.com/5618/federal-court-rules-videotaping-police-is-a-first-amendment-right/ by refusing to rule on the lower court’s decision. http://www.courtroomstrategy.com/2012/11/supreme-court-upholds-legality-of-videotaping-police/I believe that we have a Constitutional right and a duty as citizens to question police and/or film them when they appear to be discharging their duties improperly. The reality of dealing with the consequences thought is quite different for almost all of us citizens. Being arrested for the average citizen is a costly affair. Being eventually found innocent for most means that we have already been punished for a crime by the arrest, the incarceration and/or the bail being posted, and finally by the lawyer’s fees. Then too, for many the fact of being arrested could cause them a loss of employment and or wages. In the main our Judicial System takes no cognizance of the ordeal that an innocent person faces being put through the legal system. When finally a trial, held perhaps six months to a year later, exonerates them they have been left more impoverished than they began. In some cases they may be able to sue, but a torts case takes years to pursue in court and few lawyers would accept the average case on contingency. A law such as this, if it passes the NYS Assembly and is signed by Governor Cuomo which is probable, will only serve to give the police another weapon to use against citizens. Most of us, no matter how much we pretend to courage, take the easiest way out by dealing with police officers deferentially even though they might be wrong. This chilling effect leads us another few steps down the path to a police state.
What is your opinion?
What do you think about this prospective law and how do you think it will it will be applied in everyday life?