Kentucky state lawmakers have advanced a bill that would make it a crime to insult or taunt a law enforcement officer in a way that could provoke a violent response.
It is among many provisions included in a larger bill that seeks to increase penalties for offenses associated with riots.
Under the bill, a man who”accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or from gestures or other bodily touch, that could have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response” in a public place could be guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree. The crime would be classified as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $250.
That section of this bill includes language about”intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm” — a clear reference to demonstrations in Louisville and other cities last year.
Danny Carroll, a Republican state senator and the bill’s lead sponsor, said during a hearing that he introduced the bill as a reaction to vandalism and violence seen lately, CNN affiliate WAVE reported.
“This is not about legal protest in any way, shape, form or style,” he said. “This nation was built on legal protest and it is something we have to keep — our taxpayers’ right to do so.”
Carroll continued,”This deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal actions. If you find that the riots, you see folks getting in those officers facesyelling in their ears, doing whatever they can to provoke a violent response.”
Democratic state Sen. David Yates was one of those who opposed the bill, criticizing its terminology and arguing that law enforcement officers need to be able to resist provocation if a person happens to be screaming.
“I think by us having that kind of language in here, it makes my tummy turn, since I do not believe any of my great officers will provoke a violent reaction because someone does a’your mama’ joke or whatnot,” Yates explained.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky known as the proposition”an extreme invoice to stifle dissent.”
The legislation also attempts to tackle calls to defund authorities, saying that”governmental entities responsible to the funding of the various law enforcement agencies shall maintain and polish their respective fiscal support to the Commonwealth’s law enforcement agencies.” Furthermore, it could make anyone who”intentionally provides supplies to some riot which may be used as weapons or dangerous tools” guilty of riot in the first level.
The proposition includes about a year following Breonna Taylor was murdered by Louisville authorities in an overnight drug raid. Her death sparked widespread demonstrations and calls for police reform equally in Louisville and across the nation.