The proposed bill came in response to the riots last summer.
What are the details?
The bill advanced out of the committee Thursday on a 7-3 vote. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll (R), is a retired police officer who says that something needs to be done to prevent the escalation of “riotous behavior.”
“In these riots, you see people getting up in officers’ faces, yelling in their ears, doing everything they can to provoke a violent response,” he said. “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 added, “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.”
Fox News reported, “The bill kept language making a person guilty of disorderly conduct — a Class B misdemeanor — if they accost, insult, taunt, or challenge 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.”
A Class B misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 90 days’ imprisonment.
The bill is headed for the full Senate and could be passed as early as next week.
What are others saying about this?
State Sen. David Yates (D) seemed to suggest that the bill is overkill.
“I don’t believe that any of my good officers are going to be provoked to a violent response because somebody does a ‘Yo mama’ joke or whatnot,” Yates told the Louisville Courier Journal.
Corey Shapiro, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, added that the “idea that the legislature would be criminalizing speech in such a way is offensive.”
“Verbally challenging police action — even if by insult or offensive language — is a cornerstone of our democracy,” he told the outlet. “And the First Amendment protects people’s ability to express themselves, even if it’s using offensive words to the police.”