Kentucky Moves To Criminalize Taunting Police Officers

Kentucky’s state Senate has passed a bill that raises deep concerns over free speech.  The bill would make it a crime to “taunt” a police officer, an act that would sweep an array of protected speech under the criminal code and would face serious constitutional challenges.

The bill contains the following provision:

(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree when in a public place and with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or wantonly creating a risk thereof, he:

(a) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior; (b) Makes unreasonable noise; (c) Refuses to obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard, or other emergency;[ or] (d) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no  legitimate purpose; or (e) 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 from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.

Police officers are representatives of the state and, as a result, are often the focus of insults and taunts by citizens. Most of us condemn such verbal attacks but they often reflect deeper political or social issues.

Officers are trained to resist impulses that have “a direct tendency to provoke violent response” among citizens. Courts have upheld the right of citizens to insult police, which is an unfortunate aspect of policing. Thus, in 2015, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that police could not arrest a 17-year-old who called them “pigs.” Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, in the majority opinion, wrote that when “individuals exercise their constitutional rights to criticize how the police are handling a situation, they cannot be concerned about risking a criminal conviction for obstruction.”

In Kentucky, the sponsor, Republican state Sen. Danny Carroll, said that he was responding to protests last summer and had a particular sensitivity to such abuse as a former police officer.

Carroll’s motivation is commendable but I have serious doubts that his legislation is constitutional. We ask a great deal from our officers. However, this legislation would curtail core protected speech under an ambiguous criminal standard.

99 thoughts on “Kentucky Moves To Criminalize Taunting Police Officers”

  1. I believe there are laws about impeding the police trying to carry out their duties. If that is the case it was already a crime. But in this era when police are considered the enemy many of those are provoking with the hope of a response and a legal settlement. Enforcing the existing law should be sufficient but that would mean actually supporting the police in doing their job.

  2. How is it, that in KY, I can be arrested and face criminal charges for mere verbal “harassment” of my neighbor over the fence, –but I can harass an officer who is trying to maintain order or otherwise do his job????? If he were off-duty, I would agree, –but sorry, don’t buy the idea that impunity attaches to such conduct when an officer is trying to lawfully perform his/ her duties. Are law professors at state universities permitted to have students removed who are interfering with classroom instruction and harassing the professor? Are judges permitted to have litigants, jurors, or members of public removed from the court if they are harassing the parties, the judge, or the jurors???

    1. There’s a difference between being in court and being in public. You can be removed from court for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons we left England was their draconian take on freedom of speech. You’d better not insult the queen lh or you can spend the remainder of your life on the gallows! It sounds like you want to return to that time period.

  3. It’s funny how Turley frames this issue as one of “deep concern” rather than an attack on free speech as he does when it comes to “big tech. Kentucky’s legislators are directly attacking free speech to protect cops who apparently can’t handle being taunted or being screamed at a protest. If they have these pansy Mary’s as police officers they have no business being police officers in the first place.

    What this law really does is guarantees police to be more violent without accountability and those exercising their constitutional free speech rights get punished.

    Being a cop is a tough job. But it also means they should know what they are getting into. To “protect” them from having their feelings hurt is not only ridiculous, it’s pathetic.

    Republicans are quick to silence others when they are exercising their free speech rights when they say “bad things” about Trump or state the election was not stolen.

    You can flip off a cop with impunity, same goes for politicians, really just about anybody. You can freely insult anyone. Trump did it all the time. He even insulted the military, his own generals. But a cop? Good grief, it can only mean we have a bunch of Mary’s for cops. It’s funny that conservative protesters did the exact same thing when they stormed Capitols protesting lockdowns. Yelling and screaming at cops right in their faces. Apparently that was just fine, but not for BLM protesters.

    Kendrick will spend a lot of taxpayer money paying out settlements when they keep losing cases over this law.

    1. WOULD YOU CONSIDER IT. TO BE FREE SPEECH IF SOMEONE INSULTED, BERATED, THREW OBJECTS SUCH AS BOTTLES , OR BALL BEARINGS,OR PAINT ON, SPIT ON, OR INJURED YOUR GIRLFRIEND,WIFE OR CHILDREN? WOULD YOU WANT THE LAW TO PROTECT THEM FROM PHYSICAL OR VERBAL ASSAULT, THINK ABOUT IT THEN READ YOUR COMMENT AGAIN. OR MAYBE A “PANSY”WOULD CONSIDER IT FREE SPEECH

      1. Pat, you’re a bit confused. Berating or insulting an officer is protected free speech. Throwing objects or spitting is not. Both actions are completely different.

        You can flip off a cop or insult his mom any way you want. He can’t arrest you because he couldn’t handle the verbal insults and taunting. The constitution prohibits the government from limiting your speech by punishing you. It’s really quite simple. Even Turley would defend anyone’s insulting cops as protected speech.

  4. That would be just fine if the Left hadn’t redefined ‘speech’ to include things that don’t even contain words. Why should it be assault to spit on, hit, or throw something (those things are not even close to being ‘speech’) at an ordinary citizen, but prevent cops from having any recourse for the same? There are times when the Professor is too much of a literalist – this law isn’t referring to battles of words or wits. In contrast, with the insane bill being considered in CA, it’ll be a miracle if the entire LAPD doesn’t collectively quit by the summer.

    1. James, leftists have not redefined speech to include spitting or hitting or throwing stuff. That is not even remotely true. You can flip off a cop, insult his mom to his face, even call him a pig. He can’t do anything at all. Insults are protected speech. Gestures are protected speech. Just as taking a knee during the national anthem is protected speech.

      Cops take the job knowing full well what it is that they are getting themselves into. Those that are not shouldn’t be cops at all. It’s quite simple.

  5. This is an excellent law precisely because it provides authority with discretion to stack charges.

    Authority needs discretion and plenty of it. This is why the laws against certain mind altering chemicals are so valuable. Using mind altering chemicals is normal human behaviour. Make a law against normal human behaviour and then there are so many potential crimes that no justice system can afford to prosecute more than a few of them. This allows investigators to concentrate enforcement in areas where they already know that there is a greater concentration of criminals like the high crime areas where poor Blacks and Hispanics live. Police prefer to observe criminals so as to catch them doing crime rather than waiting for evidence of crime to occur and then determining who committed it.

    The drug laws in the US are the main tool of ethnic hygiene maintenance to remedy the ethnic hygiene problem created by that most egregious case of human rights overreach wokeness and political correctness the abolition of the valuable system of Black slavery.

    Once the Blacks were freed they became a criminal underclass that must be controlled to prevent uppity behaviour such as upward social mobility. Social mobility is a zero sum game so if one person moves up somewhere else another moves down.

    Humans use drugs for many reasons and different people use for different reasons. Some use because the drug because it gives a nice feeling which is not a great problem for them unless the law gets involved, others use because the reality of life as a member of a hopeless underclass means that there undrugged state of mind is beyond bearing and this is called addiction which also inevitably involves the law. Of course people in the underclass use drugs more selfmedicating with them as antidepressants but the main effect of the laws is to allow army of occupation policing to pipeline brown people into prison at a great rate and in prison they are prevented from accumulating assets and after release they are banned as felons from voting and from certain professions on the basis their bad character and relegated to poverty wage McJobs.

    Advocates of drug law reform propose harm minimization but supporters of law and order advocate the process of harm maximization by the very effective policy of prohibition.

    I accidentally posted this comment on another thread where it would appear weirdly off topic. If you see it there ignore it.

    1. Carlyle, the drug that is most dangerous and damaging of all is perfectly legal, and very cheap and easy to acquire. Especially in low income areas.

      But the self-medicating aspect is not unique to just the “underclass”. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve known who were born wealthy, and are now dead, thanks to spirits.

      1. Agreed, ethyl alcohol is a very toxic drug and if we were rational it would be banned and opiates would be legal. However the result when alcohol was prohibited was a great impetus to organized crime. If something is wanted as much as some people crave alcohol and others banned chemicals it acts as a growth hormone for organized crime and the official corruption that goes with it.

        I agree that people who are not in the underclass used banned chemicals but not at the rate that the underclass does. In Australia the blacks are mainly the descendants of the unlawful occupiers who entered the continent 40,000 years before the rightful owners arrived and they definitely constitute an underclass after 232 years of dispossession, exploitation and state control. In Sydney the suburb of Redfern has a high concentration of aborigines and the rate of heroin addiction among their teenagers is 30% as against a rate of 2% for the whole population.

        People use drugs if their normal state of consciousness is unpleasant. This can be due to high stress or an an inability to cope with normal stress. Allied soldiers in Vietnam were high drug users during their war service but most recovered after they returned home. Australian aborigines were until recently treated as badly or worse than were US Blacks.

        1. “In Australia the blacks are mainly the descendants of the unlawful occupiers who entered the continent 40,000 years before the rightful owners arrived”

          You’re quite the bigot. Aborigines were not unlawful occupiers. Laws did not exist 40,000 years ago.

    2. The most unapologetic white supremacist screed I’ve seen posted in a long time. You people really DO exist…

  6. Taunt a Cop….provoke a response….if it is. not the one you want or enjoy….shame on you.

    In my days on the street….we arrested those that interfered with a Police Officer…if they resisted they had that force necessary to effect the arrest applied….if they assaulted a Police Officer they got their butts properly kicked.

    That Freedom of Speech thing does. not grant you protection from acting stupidly.

    There are limits on Free Speech….spitting on an Officer is an assault….not speech.

    If ya’ll think otherwise how would you feel if that spit upon Officer spit right back with a big wad of Chew Tobacco juice?

    There are plenty of laws on the books already that if enforced with vigor by the Police would put an end to most of this misconduct by those who think it cool to get in a Police Officer’s face.

    The change that is needed is to revert to the old style policing….where the Cops are respected if for no other reason than if you did not and acted up….you earned a trip to Jail sometimes with a needed detour via the hospital.

    1. try this ‘taunting police officers is free speech” stuff in a courtroom with the bailiff and see how fast the judge LOCKS YOU UP FOR CONTEMPT

      Sal Sar

      1. That’s funny. Required courtroom decorum is quite different from “rules” of sidewalk behavior.

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