Monroe County (N.Y.) Proposed Ban on Intentionally Annoying a Police Officer …

has been approved by a 17-10 vote of the County Legislature, and will become law if signed by the County Executive.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The proposal, introduced by County Legislators Karla Boyce and Kara Halstead, would provide:

Secuon I. A person is guilty of harassing a police officer, peace officer or first responder when he or she intentionally engages in conduct against a police officer, peace officer or first responder, that intends to annoy, alarm or threaten the personal safety of the police officer, peace officer or first responder.

Section 2. The action must occur when such police officer, peace officer or first responder is in the course of performing his or her official duties and the person committing such act knows or reasonably should know that such person is a police officer, peace officer or first responder.

Section 3. Violation of this law shall constitute an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to S5,000.00.

And the "conduct" would of course include speech, such as saying annoying things about a police officer who is doing his job. Yet "the First Amendment protects annoying and embarrassing speech," as the New York high court has held, including of course speech that annoys police officers: In the U.S. Supreme Court's words, "Although we appreciate the difficulties of drafting precise laws, we have repeatedly invalidated laws that provide the police with unfettered discretion to arrest individuals for words or conduct that annoy or offend them."

(Threatening a police officer, like threatening anyone else, could indeed be outlawed; but this proposal goes beyond that.)

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  1. I can’t object because it to a county government wanting to get rid of particularly pesky police officers. But couldn’t they just fire them if they’re too annoying? Why would they want to also ban them from the county?

  2. “Threatening a police officer, like threatening anyone else, could indeed be outlawed” – and I assume it is already illegal.

  3. When I read the headline, I interpreted “intentionally annoying” as an adjective phrase, not a verb phrase. My version was a lot more hopeful…

    1. Funny! Changed to “intentionally annoying a police officer.”

      1. You should have contacted the Monroe County legislators and asked them change the proposal to match the post.

  4. Based on how Section 1 is written, I can’t see that this will remotely have any real effect. Is it actually possible to annoy or alarm the personal safety of a police officer?

    1. Dude, cops are the most cowardly people on earth. They’re scared of pocketknives with one inch blades, sticks, wallets, people who say, “What are you hassling me for?”, waistbands, children, elderly grandmothers, and dogs bigger than hamsters.

      1. I think ReadMyLips88 was pretending to misread the statute as “intends to [annoy], [alarm] or [threaten] [the personal safety of the police officer]” instead of “intends to [annoy], [alarm] or [threaten the personal safety of] [the police officer]”.

      2. “and dogs bigger than hamsters.”

        I would be interested in seeing a dog smaller than a hamster. 🙂

  5. Is there never a contempt cause for people who make laws that defy court decisions? If not, then there is no motivation for them to cease doing it.

    As a former fireman, I know that there are long-standing laws that prohibit people from actions that might obstruct me in my duties. They might be stretched to include annoying stuff that distracts. So you argue distraction, not annoying speech.

    1. Maybe you could have a qualified immunity framework for this sort of thing

  6. Nobody should have to suffer being intentionally annoyed while on the job. On the other hand, what, exactly is “annoying”? Protesters/demonstrators are usually pretty annoying but are generally protected by 1A.

    1. I’d say that most lawyers are intentionally annoyed by their clients every day. Suck it up, buttercup.

    2. Everyone, at some point, will suffer being intentionally annoyed while on the job. Why should first responders be excepted?

  7. I keep seeing a roadside stop where the cop is on the receiving end of someone speaking using “meow” whenever they can in conversation.

    “Watch it, buddy.”

  8. What could possibly go wrong?

  9. Wait….so I have to ask the lawyers a few questions.

    How do you intentionally annoy a peace officer? What actions/behaviors are legally defined as ‘intentional annoyance’? I mean, is there some kind of line here? What is it, just in case anyone has to deal with a cop? Just how far can you go without being intentionally annoying?

    Asking for a friend…. 🙂

    1. Since Monroe County is just outside Buffalo, New York, I suspect reminding him of the four lost Super Bowls would work.

      1. So….make a comment about not being related to Scott Norwide, and how I like the NY ‘football’ Giants. Does this go right up to the line, but not intentionally annoy a cop in Monroe County?

        1. Depends how the Bills played the previous week.

    2. How about allowing the court system deal with a cop who is doing something illegal or unconstitutional?

  10. Consider how the left has demonized police officers in the last 5-7 years and now they are subjected to mob violence in New York City, this hardly surprises me. (Of course it is most likely unconstitutional but just about everything pushed these days is especially by the left so that is hardly any real impediment to enacting a public policy.)

    1. re: “the left has demonized police officers”
      Objection – assumes facts not in evidence. Bad cops have been called out by both the left and the right. The existence of those bad cops has tainted the standing of the good cops. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Nor do I see a particular left/right rule about these feelings.

      re: “they are subjected to mob violence in New York City”
      Citation, please. Because I have seen zero evidence in support of the claim that violence against cops is any higher than it’s been in the past.

      1. First unless you have been living under a rock, no follow up is necessary.

        Second, I can forgive you for not seeing the rise in this type of violence since the lamestream media doesn’t cover it. But just do an internet search or better yet go to the NYC police union website that tracks the incidents. You would be astounded. (Or may not if you are of the opinion they just have it coming…)

        1. You’re going to need to provide a source better than the NYC police union website to support your claim. That union is on record not merely tolerating the bad cops but actively defending police behavior that is objectively indefensible.

          And I’m not merely talking about paying for an accused cop’s legal representation. That is entirely appropriate. (Innocent until proven guilty applies to dirty cops, too.) I’m talking about their out-of-court claims of support and press releases, some of which range from frivolous to fraudulent.

          The union has actively fought all attempts to encourage self-restraint and accountability. They have zero credibility to now claim “violence” against their members.

          But please prove me wrong if you can. Evidence that I would consider acceptable could include:
          – a ten-year trend of non-traffic police fatalities
          – a normalized trend of police insurance premiums
          – a reputable report by an independent investigative journalist (Remember that assuming your hypothesis, even if the left-leaning media are all covering it up, there should be a right-leaning journalist willing to dig for the truth. Does even Rush Limbaugh back up your claim?)
          – FBI statistics

          There are probably a lot of other reputable, independent sources out there that I can’t think of right now. Any of them would do. But the police union ain’t one of them.

          1. Got it you hate cops. You do you.

            1. No, I don’t. I hate bad cops. And I hold otherwise-good cops who stay silent about the bad cops in contempt.

              It’s more accurate to say that I don’t trust cops. But they’re not special. I don’t trust anyone, especially when we set up systems that implicitly require good people to act against their own self-interests in order to stay good. And that’s the model that the police unions have set up. That’s why their self-reporting of data can not be the sole source for decisions about public policy.

              So don’t write us off. Give us useful data from an independent source. Give us a reason to think that you’re not a troll or a union-sponsored sockpuppet.

          2. I’m with you Rossami. The police unions are as bad as the teachers’ unions in that regard, in that the “good” never hold the “bad” accountable for anything.

    2. Aww, poor snowflake triggered by the public criticizing the bad behavior of public servants. Police need a safe space, which apparently they think should be everywhere.

      1. It is funny when the left tries to mimic the humor the right uses to mock them. Just doesn’t translate out all that well. Big difference from screaming at a speaker who didn’t use “preferred pronouns” then having a bike gang surround a cop, throw stuff at him, and make specific threats.

  11. And I’m sure the police there get annoyed if they’re being photographed or videoed.

  12. Just going in to work used to annoy me, so – – – – –

  13. Just two 500mg tablets of “Wuss-Ease” will reduce annoyances to – well – just annoyances. County Legislators Karla Boyce and Kara Halstead appear to be suffering from Munchausen by Cop Syndrome.

  14. Does anyone know what the law is like in the other counties of NY state (outside Monroe County)? Is it open season on police, or are there laws protecting them from interference when they do their jobs?

    In other words, what gaps in the law is Monroe County filling?

    Because I would imagine that – at least on an individual not mob level – harassing a police(wo)man is a good way to get oneself arrested, and perhaps even convicted of something.

    1. (I would presume that mob harassment of police isn’t legal but gives some advantages to the mob members when there aren’t enough cops ready and willing to make mass arrests – in other words the problem isn’t gaps in the law)

  15. @Eddy, the legislature pointed to two types of incidents that made the law necessary. The first incident involved Monroe County First Responders who were bitten by individuals they were trying to help. Law enforcement could easily have prosecuted those individuals for second degree assault, which is a violent felony. The second series of incidents mentioned were instances of people throwing water at the NYPD. This could have been prosecuted by laws already on the books, such as obstructing governmental administration, criminal mischief (if body cams are damaged), and the like.

    The main sort of conduct that will be covered by this law is speech clearly protected under the First Amendment. Similar New York statutes were declared unconstitutional in People v. Dietze, 75 N.Y. 2d 47 (1989) and People v. Golb, 23 N.Y.3d 455 (2014).

    One final note, the County Executive signed the legislation into law.

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