You might have thought that with laws prohibiting assault already in the books, there would be no need for S.2402, the bill passed by the New York State Senate on June 5th that ‘creates the crime of aggravated harassment of a police or peace officer.’ Sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo, S. 2402 ‘would make it a felony to physically attack a police officer while on duty.’
But you would be mistaken.
Senator Griffo’s justification says it all:
At a time when shocking incidents of disrespect and outright confrontation are at an all-time high, the men and women who patrol the streets of our cities deserve every possible protection we can offer them….My bill would make it a crime to take any type of physical action to try to intimidate a police officer. This is a necessary action because we can see from the rise in incidents that too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer. We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty. [emphasis added]
I was going to write something about how this bill would, in effect, make it impossible to ever, ever argue with police officers, to ask them to explain their actions, that this bill endangers all those who come into contact with police officers, who routinely arrest and harass anyone that dares question their right to search, question and arrest. But I thought it might be better to just reproduce a comment on S.402 by someone who frequently encounters the police:
As an attorney and as a resident of Crown Heights Brooklyn I do not support Bill (S.2402), which would make it a felony to harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.
During arrests the police routinely add on unfounded charges of Obstruction of Government Administration (OGA), Disorderly Conduct (Dis-Con), and Resisting Arrest.
With this Bill if an individual objected to a policeman’s actions that could annoy the police officer or be considered harassment or even a threat. For example one Friday evening on the way home from synagogue, when walking by a parked police car an officer in the passenger side said hi to my 9 year old son. I told my son to go back to the car and say hi to the police officer. However, when my son approached the car the driver told my son “get away from the car kid” whereupon my son returned to me in tears. I went to talk with the driver of the vehicle about the situation. However, rather than answering me (which he refused) he became visibly annoyed that I had questioned his rude behavior. He then menacingly got out of the vehicle and began yelling at me to stand back and accusing me of threatening him because I was standing near his vehicle. Under this proposed statute I could have been arrested for an E felony.
If an officer is not competent enough to handle the streets then they should get another career. Statutes regarding attempted assault, Dis-Con, (OGA) among other laws already protect police officers from non-violent offenders. The mere appearance of a potential threat and words should not be turned into felonies and a tool of impatient law enforcement officers to further burden the public and our court systems.
The writer of that comment is apparently a middle-aged Jewish gentleman. Those of younger and darker persuasions might express themselves rather more pungently.