Kentucky Senators Pass Bill That Would Make It A Crime To Say Mean Things To Cops

from the finally-getting-'contempt-of-cop'-added-to-the-law-books dept

A bill [PDF] that's likely headed to a dead end at the governor's desk or a state court targets protected speech that might make some cops angry. The bill may end up dead, but the Kentucky Senate still needs to explain how it let the bill pass, considering it contains this very, very stupid addition, presumably courtesy of the bill's sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll -- a former police officer.

The bill converts free speech into a second degree misdemeanor. And it only targets speech that targets certain public employees.

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.

That's right. Seven of ten Senators want to make it illegal to say bad things to police officers. Anything that "provokes" a cop is off-limits. And it assumes cops are "reasonable and prudent people." Maybe they are. But "reasonable and prudent" public servants -- especially those frequently engaged in heated situations where they're supposed to be the keepers of peace -- should have a higher bar to reach before they react to these undefined fighting words.

We should expect more from our cops. These state Senators want us to expect less. This conduct was never illegal before, but following protests in the state over killings by cops, people like Danny Carroll want to codify "contempt of cop."

Carroll insinuates cops are weak individuals who aren't able to keep their cool when confronted by unhappy members of the public. Maybe this is what's actually true. And a law like this allows them to act on their worst impulses and -- never mind the First Amendment -- actually punish people for engaging in what should be protected speech.

Behold your jackbooted snowflakes, apparently in need of protection from… syllables.

"In these riots, you see people getting up in officers' faces, yelling in their ears, doing everything they can to provoke a violent response," Carroll said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Yeah. That's kind of thing is going to happen during protests. And it's not a crime anywhere. According to Carroll's former cop mentality, it's the people who need to be punished for making cops angry, rather than cops for violating people's First Amendment rights.

The beatings will continue until police morale improves.

"I'm not saying the officers do that, but there has to be a provision within that statute to allow officers to react to that. Because that does nothing but incite those around that vicinity and it furthers and escalates the riotous behavior," he continued.

Carroll could not be more wrong. Cops should not be "allowed" to "react" to angry people saying angry things -- not by internal policy and very definitely not by state mandate. That's not how the law works and that sure as shit isn't how the Constitution works.

Everything Carroll offers in defense of his indefensible bill is… well, indefensible.

Carroll noted the bill wasn't about limiting lawful protest "in any way, shape, form or fashion."

"This country was built on lawful protest, and it's something that we must maintain — our citizens' right to do so. What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts," he said.

Ah, but it does limit lawful protests. It makes it illegal to say mean things to cops, which is something that happens at lawful protests. And no one crosses the legal line by being mean to cops. The law makes the logic of his statement conveniently circular. Make something that wasn't previously illegal illegal and suddenly things that never "crossed the line" into criminality will now will cross the line into criminality.

Saying protesters shouldn't do things that are illegal is incredibly disingenuous when you're passing an anti-protest omnibus that makes angering a police officer using nothing more than words a criminal offense.

And that's not the only thing the bill does. It redefines "riot" to mean any group of more than five people that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government functions." It provides sentence enhancements for engaging in rioting even if the person did not directly engage in the riots but committed a crime anywhere else "with knowledge that a riot was occurring." It denies probation or early release for anyone convicted of this new crime. It turns resisting arrest and obstructing traffic from misdemeanors to felonies if it occurs while a riot is taking place.

And it fights defunding efforts by mandating steadily increasing funding for law enforcement agencies:

Governmental entities responsible for the funding of the various law enforcement agencies shall maintain and improve their respective financial support to the Commonwealth's law enforcement agencies…

It's a whole pile of retaliation with some stupid dumped on top of it. These legislators think cops shouldn't have to deal with the consequences of their actions -- consequences that sometimes include violent riots. But then they don't think cops should just have to stand there and take when angry people shout angry things at them. These legislators are wrong about almost all of this, but especially wrong about that. If the governor doesn't send this pile of idiocy packing, a court will soon enough.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, insults, kentucky, police, speech, taunting


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:47am

    Honestly: we can consider this bill... but only if it's a criminal offense for senators to insult their constituents, and the victims pet cat MUST preside over the trial. If the victim doesn't have a pet cat, they must be given a free choice of breed. If they have cat allergies, they must be provided with a sufficiently strong anti-alergine (with zero other side effects).

    I think this would be a reasonable exchange (though it's kind of based on reason being tossed out to begin with).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:49am

    Carroll could not be more wrong.

    I read the article, Tim, and you may be giving him a little too much credit. I'm expecting to see his name around here again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    David, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:51am

    You got one thing wrong:

    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.

    And you comment as follows:

    Anything that "provokes" a cop is off-limits. And it assumes cops are "reasonable and prudent people."

    Nope. It assumes nothing of the sort. For example, there are things that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response in a rabid crocodile from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.

    Nobody here assumes that police officers are reasonable and prudent. The assumption merely is that reasonable and prudent persons know that rabid crocodiles are bad news that you want to tread around very very lightly or face some unpleasant consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:51am

    It's really telling that the most ardent defenders of cops generally describe them as if they're rabid dogs with an irrational penchant for violence who could go off at any random provocation rather than oath-sworn public servants wielding great responsibility and a sacred duty to uphold the laws of our society.

    "Don't piss off the cops or they might shoot you or at least tase you!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:55am

    Great. Snowflakes with guns need a law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:08am

    Cops are not crocodiles. Cops are people — same as you or I. If we automatically assume cops are unreasonable by default, what does that say about the population from which cops are recruited?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:16am

    That politicians think that cops need extra protection show just how badly cops are failing at their job. It says nothing good about the politicians either·

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:17am

    Re:

    I agree, the populace should not lower themselves to the level at which police brutalize the populace, because then you are no better than they are. Publicize the abuse for all to see, in a clandestine manner if needed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:20am

    This bill, that attempts to outlaw insulting law enforcement, is itself an insult to the people the laws are supposed to defend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    nerdrage (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:24am

    fair is fair

    If some guy with a gun stops me for speeding, I generally will maintain a polite attitude. This rule obviously would apply only to white people anyway. Black people who mouth off to cops generally end up in the morgue so perhaps it's only fair white people should have to mind their manners too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Paul B, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:31am

    What is a Riot

    Personally I love how it fails to define what a Riot is. So let's look at that for a moment...

    KRS 525.010(5) defines riot as a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.

    5 guys holding flags someplace in town or the Portland Riots that lasted a month give cover to charge you with rioting if you Jwalk now. Way to go!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:34am

    Re: What is a Riot

    Me and my 5 buddies and our Proud boys flag are going to the same city as the proud boys so they are always participating in a riot and can't claim to be peaceful protestors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    deanathema (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:38am

    obligatory

    Any reasonable and prudent person's response:

    "Fuck the police!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:44am

    Re:

    And to add to that... if you are the kind of person that is going to allow yourself to be "provoked" by people being mean to you, then don't be a cop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 10:46am

    Re: fair is fair

    Is that what this bill does?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 11:40am

    'Won't someone think of the snowflakes in uniform?!'

    Some people just will not or can not read the room. People are pissed because police are already given special rights and treatment above and beyond what the public gets, this bill is just adding fuel to the fire by further reinforcing the idea that some animals are most certainly more equal than others and need to be 'protected' at all costs(from consequences for their own actions).

    If someone can't handle mean words said to them then a job that regularly involves interactions with highly stressed members of the public is clearly well beyond their abilities to handle, and the proper response is for them to find another job not pass a law making it illegal to be anything less than subserviently polite to cops.

    Arguing that police shouldn't have to face mean words is just as stupid as trying to pass a bill claiming that it's unreasonable to expect lifeguards to be able to swim or butchers to see blood or raw meat. It's part of the gorram job, if you can't handle it then the problem is on you, not the job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    JMT (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 11:56am

    Re: You got one thing wrong:

    Perhaps cops should be recruited and trained with a higher expectation than "rabid crocodile".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 12:03pm

    suggest

    This makes if fun to get Creative.

    But can we add this to ALL RETAIL WORKERS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 2:12pm

    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.

    Wait. There's a HUGE assumption there. If someone, say a LEO, accosted, insulted, taunted, or challenged me with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, it's unlikely that ANYTHING would provoke a violent response from me, a reasonable and prudent person.

    So... WHY do they think a reasonable and prudent person would think that ANY such behavior should be expected to provoke a violent response from a LEO, who has supposedly been thoroughly trained in how to confront people without escalating to violence?

    I mean, this bill is either admitting that LEOs in the state are improperly trained and condones that, or is stating that reasonable and prudent people are OK with escalating acts of violence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 2:41pm

    Intervention creep

    Recording police officers on duty (or refusing to cease doing so) will be regarded as a derisive challenge in 3... 2... 1...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Mar 2021 @ 8:44pm

    WHY do they think a reasonable and prudent person would think that ANY such behavior should be expected to provoke a violent response from a LEO, who has supposedly been thoroughly trained in how to confront people without escalating to violence?

    It’s obvious that a significant-enough number of lawmakers have never worked retail. Register jockeys catch more shit on their best day than most cops catch on their worst, and those wage slaves (generally) don’t pop shittalkers in the mouth for talking shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2021 @ 9:16pm

    Re:

    to state the obvious, because they would be fired. Why, oh why is there a double standard?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 12:15am

    Re: fair is fair

    Nobody should be getting shot and killed by police officers for no greater crime than being angry, black or white.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re:

    because money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    nasch (profile), 11 Mar 2021 @ 10:13am

    Constitutionality

    Governmental entities responsible for the funding of the various law enforcement agencies shall maintain and improve their respective financial support to the Commonwealth's law enforcement agencies…

    Unfortunately that part doesn't appear to be unconstitutional, so a court would have nothing to say about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Mar 2021 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re:

    Corruption and cowardice. Those making rules and handing out punishments either see nothing wrong with what the police are doing or they're too cowardly to hand out any sort of punishment for those actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2021 @ 11:34pm

    BLUE SNOWFLAKE BILL

    they may as well put out a sign that says "we violate rights!" and it "pays well."
    the first time this illegal law is used will be the last time it is used! the city, county, state would end up settling a major lawsuit for rights violations!

    EVERYTHING about this bill screams unconstitutional and is designed to be used and abused! the blue lies mafia already have way too many protections as it is now!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 15 Mar 2021 @ 5:34am

    Re:

    If we automatically assume cops are unreasonable by default, what does that say about the population from which cops are recruited?

    If we assume cops are unreasonable, it means we were paying attention.

    If cops were reasonable people I could not point you to this: naked cowboy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Mar 2021 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re:

    I'll see your naked cowboy and raise with;

    "If cops were reasonable people I could not point you to this: George Floyd...Breonna Taylor...Antwon Rose..."

    Let's face it, when you can point to hundreds or even thousands of wrongful deaths and police kill statistics exceed actual murder statistics by criminals in some other countries, then that points to cops having gone well beyond what the word "unreasonable" will cover.

    At this point it's safer to state that US cops simply consist of a few serial killers and a large amount of spineless coat holders in all too many states and municipalities.

    Even disregarding the triggerhappy joykillers with paid memberships in some right-wing extremist militia or other we still have those who simply are too dumb for words. Like the ones whose response to a gasoline-drenched would-be suicide was to tase him, thereby burning the man to death.

    The old style soviet border agent was "unreasonable". He just kept saying "Nyet". And "No visa."
    US police officers? They're something else. Something you normally wouldn't expect to find outside third world hellholes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Mar 2021 @ 7:50am

    Re: fair is fair

    "Black people who mouth off to cops generally end up in the morgue so perhaps it's only fair white people should have to mind their manners too?"

    This is once again one of those cases where two wrongs don't make one right. An officer of the law is someone trusted to bear arms and more importantly, bear the government violence monopoly.

    No sane person would want that responsibility to be born by thin-skinned snowflakes taught that they are entitled to be above and beyond any and all criticism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Mar 2021 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    "I mean, this bill is either admitting that LEOs in the state are improperly trained and condones that, or is stating that reasonable and prudent people are OK with escalating acts of violence."

    Well, it certainly does send a loud and clear message about what the Kentucky senators think of their citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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