Editorial submitted by Conrad Doyle
A buddy sent me a copy of a discussion that was ongoing within a group of local folks on Facebook. I read the many comments, some in favor of and others in heated opposition to Senate Bill 211. For those unfamiliar with this proposed legislation, Senate Bill 211, it is a piece of legislation that would criminalize the taunting and insulting against police officers or other law enforcement personnel.
In a nutshell, the anti-taunting legislation as proposed in Senate Bill 211 would have made the taunting of police officers a Class B misdemeanor in Kentucky that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. ‘Taunting’ as used in this Bill states that any person who “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.”
So why am I saying “it would have”? Well, for two reasons. The first is that because this legislation is included in a piece of legislation designed to prohibit or strictly limit the use of a “no knock warrant” like the warrant issued in Louisville that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor.
The second reason is because the House of Representatives adjourned without voting on it. Now, when they return for the last two days (March 29-30), they will not have enough time to override the veto that is expected to come when it reaches Gov. Beshear’s office.
Now, let’s return to the ongoing discussion of this legislation by this Facebook group.
The “moderator” of the group asked for civil communications on the subject matter, but, as is often the case, the information that was shared to begin the discussion was incomplete and failed to give a fair representation of the legislation as it was/is proposed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read, and I enjoyed reading most of it but could not get past the reality of why Bill 211 is necessary.
The posting asked how the readers felt about “Kentucky Senate approves bill making it a crime to taunt, insult members of law enforcement”? I read several responses that suggested any police officer that got their feelings hurt by being called names, spat on or having bodily fluids thrown on them, then they need to find another job, insinuating that these are just part of the job and should be expected if choosing to be a public servant.
It was sad to read the number of commenters that felt the legislation was infringing on constitutional rights afforded to all citizens of the United States. Specifically the “Freedom of Speech” as granted in the First Amendment and the right to hold peaceful protests.
People have these rights, and they should never be allowed to be compromised by the same governmental bodies that are tasked with enforcing them. But, when one person or group of persons decide that their right of free speech and public protesting is more important than others rights and form what equates to nothing more than an angry mob hell bent on destruction, looting and incinerating, it is no longer about individual rights.
Explain to me about “rights” when a business is vandalized and its product stolen, when the building is set on fire and burns to the ground while the owner begs them to stop. Explain to me about “rights” when automobiles and first responder’s vehicles are flipped, destroyed and torched. Explain to me how throwing bodily fluids on others is guaranteed by First Amendment rights. Are any of these situations covered by the right to peaceful protest?
Are hate crimes only crimes when people are targeted because of their sexual orientation or the color of their skin? What about hate crimes based on gender identification, religious affiliations or their country of origin? We teach children about the evils of bullying and harassment while trying to instill tolerance and kindness. Is there a separate book of rules that apply to law enforcement? Do police officers sign away their rights when they put on their uniform and pin on their badge?
Don’t misunderstand me and understand that I am in total agreement that there are situations, far too many times when people appointed or by virtue of their employment, have used their positions of power to hurt and even kill members of our community. For those that have done so, justice should be swift, and the punishment must fit the crime. It must be doled out regardless of the situation surrounding the crime.
If police behavior and actions are contemptible so too must those same behaviors be held with the same contempt regardless of the “who” involved in the crime. There must be equality in every aspect of society. If an action or behavior is illegal for members of the law enforcement community then why should that behavior or action be acceptable for any other segment of our society?
If the moderator of this group had said “Kentucky Senate approves bill making it a crime to taunt, insult members of the public” would we be having the same conversation? Is it only acceptable behavior because it is directed at police officers? We would never be okay for police officers to taunt and insult citizens, flip vehicles, loot local businesses and torch their buildings. Then why would anyone think it would be okay to allow our law enforcement officials to be treated that way?