Knock me over with a feather

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2013

A bill passed by the New York Senate would make it a felony to “subject” any police officer to “physical contact” with the intent to “harass, annoy, threaten or alarm” such officer. Under current law, only contact that results in injury rises to the status of a felony. Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome), sponsor of the bill, cites “shocking incidents” of “disrespect.” [Gothamist, Scott Greenfield; Gannett LoHud (Sen. Griffo complains his intent was misunderstood, says bill is doomed in Assembly)]

{ 7 comments }

1 marco73 06.17.13 at 8:34 am

In related news, the NYC mayor sez:

(Nov 2011): Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday during a speech at MIT.
“I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world”

Senator Griffo, we know exactly what your intention is: “bow before my power, peasant.”

2 mojo 06.17.13 at 12:21 pm

Courtesy is to be expected, but respect must be earned.

3 gitarcarver 06.17.13 at 1:13 pm

In my opinion, Sen. Griffo’s assertion that the bill was misunderstood is true. It seemed that one day the sun was shining and the sky was blue and the next day websites were screaming that there was a bill in NY that would make it a felony to “annoy” a police office. No one looked at the rest of the bill and its provisions that contact with the officer must be made.

http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S2402-2013

Section 1. The penal law is amended by adding a new section 240.33 to
read as follows:
S 240.33 AGGRAVATED HARASSMENT OF A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER.
A PERSON IS GUILTY OF AGGRAVATED HARASSMENT OF A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER WHEN, WITH THE INTENT TO HARASS, ANNOY, THREATEN OR ALARM A PERSON WHOM HE OR SHE KNOWS OR REASONABLY SHOULD KNOW TO BE A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER ENGAGED IN THE COURSE OF PERFORMING HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES, HE OR SHE STRIKES, SHOVES, KICKS OR OTHERWISE SUBJECTS SUCH PERSON TO PHYSICAL CONTACT.
AGGRAVATED HARASSMENT OF A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER IS A CLASS E FELONY.

There was a lot of blowback in the blogosphere about this and much of it misrepresented the total scope of the bill being presented.

4 John Burgess 06.17.13 at 4:48 pm

@gitcarver: Would that include contact such as thrusting one’s face into a cop’s fist or foot?

5 gitarcarver 06.17.13 at 5:51 pm

John,

I am not sure of the validity of the bill itself. My comment was strictly that too many people misrepresented the law itself.

The headline of the cited Gothamist reads: “Annoying A Cop Might Soon Be A Crime, Says NY State Senate which is factually inaccurate.

The first line of the article reads:

Well, this could be a mess: the New York State Senate passed a bill today that makes annoying a police officer a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.”

The article later goes onto explain the requirement that contact must be made but by then I think the damage is done.

In my opinion, you can’t have a discussion on something like this without knowing all of the facts. Sites and blogs that screamed “Annoying a Cop Is a Felony in New York!” were deliberately misleading readers and the public. While there is nothing that says the media and bloggers cannot lie, that doesn’t mean I have to like them lying.

6 Scott 06.17.13 at 5:52 pm

The text of the law is pretty meaningless. All that matters is how LEOs will use this against citizens that are otherwise not causing a problem. All of a sudden every cell phone camera will be be deemed a form of harassment and people exercising their first amendment rights will be arrested and held for days on bogus charges. It will take some courageous citizens, millions of dollars and years of litigation to find that people still retain first amendment right.

7 Hugo S. Cunningham 06.17.13 at 8:38 pm

This bill could be amended to require that, for someone to be charged, the entire scene would have to be recorded on video (with sound of course); the cop’s word would not be enough. If that should help bring about routine recording of all interaction of on-duty policemen with the public, truth and justice would be served.
(Recordings of routine police shifts should be kept confidential, *except* where there is a significant factual dispute that it could settle.)

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