Bill That Would Make It a Crime to Insult and Taunt Police Officers Advances Through Kentucky State Senate

Illustration for article titled Bill That Would Make It a Crime to Insult and Taunt Police Officers Advances Through Kentucky State Senate
Photo: 4kclips (Shutterstock)

A new bill advanced out of a Kentucky state Senate committee Thursday, and if it passes into law, it would serve as the state’s (and possibly the nation’s) first blue fragility bill. What’s “blue fragility,” you ask? Well, it’s like white fragility, only you add a gun, badge and a massive ego that can’t take an insult without becoming violent. Essentially, it’s a bill that would make it a crime to insult or taunt police officers during a protest because, apparently, one Kentucky Republican who happens to be a retired police officer thinks cops need to be protected from their own tendencies to resort to violence when they feel disrespected.

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Imagine going to jail for making a cop commit police brutality.

The Courier-Journal reports that Senate Bill 211 passed by a 7-3 vote and is a response to “riots” that occurred in the state over systemic racism and police violence, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Benton).

“This is not about lawful protest in any way, shape, form or fashion,” Carroll said during the committee meeting. “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.”

From the Journal:

The amended SB 211 took out previous controversial language making it a crime to camp overnight on non-campground state property — which critics say criminalized the homeless — as well as provisions prohibiting public assistance and enforcing mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of a crime related to a riot.

However, it kept language making a person guilty of disorderly conduct — a Class B misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 90 days’ imprisonment — if he or she “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, let me see if I have this right: Only “a few bad apples” are committing acts of police violence, but a law is still necessary to charge civilians who provoke the violence that cops just don’t commit by getting in their face and talking shit—is that about right, Sen. Karen...I mean, Carroll?

“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. “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.”

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OK, first of all: Bullshit!

You don’t get to just draw the conclusion that passionate protesters who are taunting police officers are doing so in an intentional effort to provoke police brutality. And the fact that Carroll talked out of the other side of his face saying, “I’m not saying the officers do that,” while sponsoring a bill that implies that they absolutely do do that, is very telling. It’s also clear that like most “back the blue” conservatives, Carroll and the other six senators who voted in favor of advancing the bill don’t believe police officers themselves are ever responsible for instigating violence during protests, but numerous reports say something different.

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But here’s my real problem with this bill (and maybe I’m just being petty, but whatever): Throughout most of my Black life, police officers have called me all kinds dip-shits, dumb-shits, numbnuts, little cock-suckers and, at least one time, Buckwheat. (I used to have hair.) I’ve had a cop get right up in my face and start shouting and threatening violence against me all over me being a mild smart-ass. I’ve had a cop pull me towards him by the waistline of my pants and it took all of my restraint and fear of extrajudicial execution to stop me from taking a swing at him. Millions of Black people and people of color across the country can and have testified to similar experiences—because cops tend to act like ginormous assholes when dealing with Black people—yet no one is looking to pass legislation that would criminalize that behavior. Is it that hard to imagine a “reasonable and prudent” civilian becoming violent under these circumstances?

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Kentucky ACLU attorney Corey Shapiro also brought up a good point when he told the Journal 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,” Shapiro said. “And the First Amendment protects people’s ability to express themselves, even if it’s using offensive words to the police.”

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But conservatives sure do pick and choose when the Constitution is important to adhere to, don’t they?

Anyway, “The bill now goes to the full Senate, where it could be passed as early as next Thursday, though not much time will remain in the 30-day session to also make it through the House,” the Journal reports.

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So basically, if Breonna Taylor wasn’t enough, I now have another reason to never move to Kentucky.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

What a bunch of fucking snowflakes.