A bill that recently passed through the New York State Senate would make it a felony punishable by up to four years in prison to “harass, annoy, threaten, or alarm” a police officer, as long as that harassment is accompanied by physical contact. The bill is on its way to the State Assembly.
On first glance, the proposed legislation, dubbed “An act to amend the penal law, in relation to aggravated harassment of peace officers or police officers,” seems reasonable. It specifies that the annoyed cop must be on duty, and gives “striking,” “shoving,” and “kicking” as examples of potential harassment or annoyance. Most sane people would expect a fairly stiff punishment for walking up to an active duty cop and kicking him, right?
However. “Assault on a peace officer, police officer, fireman or emergency medical services professional,” “Obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, and “Menacing a police officer or peace officer” are all already felonies in New York, and cover any violence, threat of violence, or obstruction of duty against a cop.
So what does the new bill do? Exactly what it says–gives police an excuse to arrest you when they feel like you’re being annoying. At a protest and accidentally brush against a cop? That’s physical contact; you’ve just committed aggravated harassment of a police officer and could be going to jail for years.
(Photo: Joe Lustri/Flickr)