Police

Nassau County Passes Bill That Could Make Criticizing a Cop Punishable by $50,000

Yet under qualified immunity, it's incredibly difficult for the public to sue police.

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Police officers have difficult jobs, and, in some sense, are charged with protecting the public's right to free speech. It is with that in mind that the local legislature in Nassau County, New York, has passed a bill that could serve to limit the First Amendment rights of those who criticize cops.

"It is the judgment of this Legislature that the recent widespread pattern of physical attacks and intimidation directed at the police has undermined the civil liberties of the community at large," reads proposed local law No. 2021, introduced by Legislator Joshua A. Lafazan, an Independent. "Such violence is therefore a direct assault on the rule of law, every bit as much as suppression of speech by public authorities." 

It would appear the irony was lost on the legislators who voted in favor of the bill, which would make police officers a protected class and allow them to sue those who "harass, menace, assault or injure an individual due to such individual's status as a first responder." A police officer who feels aggrieved under the law would be able to commence civil action for compensatory and punitive damages. Anyone found in violation would be subject to an additional $25,000 penalty, which would double if the alleged offender acted out during a riot.

The bill pays a great deal of lip service to violence against police officers, which is something that should indeed be a crime, and, thankfully, already is. That "harassment" of police officers would now merit a $50,000 civil penalty raises a few red flags. For one, the charge is inherently vague. And just how expensive should it be to criticize the government, the entity both charged with protecting free speech and constrained by it?

That cost should be zero, says Ken White, an attorney at the law firm Brown White and Osborn, who tweets under the popular Twitter account "Popehat." "It's basically a threat that, if you protest, not only are things going to happen to you, but now there could be litigation against you," he says. "The record of these types of hate crime provisions shows that they tend to be used abusively by police."

Hate crime laws have indeed engendered a great deal of opposition, primarily from conservatives, who say that such special protections should not be afforded to the litany of minority groups that demand them, including people of color and the LGBT community. And there are many valid reasons to agree with them, as hate crime laws subjectively deem certain biases more egregious than others, effectively undercutting equality under the law.

Yet that hasn't disabused some right-leaning types from supporting the protections for cops. Consider the action taken by the Alabama House of Representatives, which last year passed a bill designating police officers as a protected class under hate crime legislation.

Nassau County is also not the first legislature to float speech-restrictive laws aimed at protecting the government from reproach. As I wrote last week, the Florida House of Representatives is considering a bill that would make it a crime to "indirectly harass" a police officer by getting closer than 30 feet while he or she is on the job. That would effectively make filming a cop illegal, which is without question protected by the First Amendment.

"This is just sheer base-pleasing gesturing by the legislators doing this," says White. "They say it's required because they're being assaulted. Well, let me tell you, I've never seen a situation where actual assaults of cops are not vigorously prosecuted, and if anything, they're prosecuted too easily and questionably. This is really trying to deter speech against cops that might hurt the most delicate person's feelings."

Perhaps most ironic is the bill's passage as the country debates qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that prohibits the public from suing police officers over constitutional rights violations unless the way in which a cop misbehaved has been outlined in a previous court precedent with a sort of painstaking precision. Under qualified immunity, cops have been protected from lawsuits for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, damaging an innocent man's home with explosives during a SWAT raid gone wrong, shooting a child, and killing a man who had been asleep in his car. So while the officers who hold a monopoly on state power in Nassau County are entitled to the benefit of the doubt—and then some—it would seem the public is not.

NEXT: Cuomo Sexually Harassed 11 Women, Retaliated Against 1 Female Employee, According to A.G. Report

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  1. So… cops now have the same status as blacks, jews, and gays.

    1. /sarc off

      Now THAT is humor.

      /sarc on

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  2. The anti cop snuff film hour.

  3. This is the beauty of the binary choice – you can either proclaim ACAB and defund the police and live in a dystopian anarchy or you can give cops carte blanche to violate every single one of your rights, there’s no middle ground.

    1. Good job there man. You got your blame Democrats for someting in there.

      1. Lafazan was re-elected for his second term in 2019 with over 70 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Timothy Jenks

    2. I have no complaint with the cops where I live. Only the criminals complain about the cops. They gassed BLM the second that they lit a paper fire. They arrest morons that block streets. I know a dozen of them that served in the military with me and they are all good men. We had the same prosecutor for 40 years in this town. Our Mayor will always get re-elected if he chooses to stay. They are running things right.
      When a cop dies here, people line the funeral route, even when it is snowing. The people support the blue because the blue properly supports them.

      1. “I know a dozen of them that served in the military with me and they are all good men.”

        Thanks for the unbiased opinion.
        FFS it’s always some other out of area police department or politician that is the problem. Morons like this are the reason incumbents get re-elected at the rate they do because they are often too fucking stupid to realize their vote is a problem.

        “Only the criminals complain about the cops.”
        Too stupid for prime time. FO slaver. Tell Andy, I said, hey.

        Are they good men with PTSD? Do you even know or would that require too much self-introspection?

    3. I wouldn’t mind if the police they are hiring today were all good, decent, law abiding educated people. Thing is, no one wants to be the police anymore.
      Lousy hours, working at the whim of politicians, miserly benefits, people despise you, your clientele is mostly criminals, you work all the holidays, & weekends. People don’t like nor trust cops any longer. The public calls you to help them but they didn’t want to call you in the first place – because something bad has happened they can’t manage on their own. Police are exposed to the elements, disease, violence, injury, horrific crime scenes, and people who want to kill them.

      So who applies for this job? The A type controlling personalities, people who want power, even people with criminal histories and only a high school diploma because that is all that is required.

      The college crowd doesn’t want a job where they are despised. They want profit sharing, retirement benefits, medical, stock options, childcare, weekends/holidays off, remote work conditions, and bonuses. They don’t want to work for politicians, or wear Kevlar every day to work; they want private sector jobs where the real money is and they are appreciated for their skill set.

      People get what they pay for. Cheap, unskilled labor carrying a gun, a Taser, and making critical life decisions that are not necessarily in the best interest of all parties.

      1. Considering the college crowd make up only 35% of the US population I guess the other 65% need jobs also with some becoming cops. A fair number of cops do have an associate degree in criminal justice.
        In California State police start out at 75,000.00 and in Texas 73,000. A deputy sheriff in Florida averages 105,000.00 and in California 125,000.00. What college grad averages that much and how many years did it take and how much did it cost?
        A significant number of college grads take courses that not only lead to dead end jobs with low pay but are paying off loans for decades. AOC for example had a great degree for a barmaid.
        Grouping all police officers into one group is asinine. Some of the most decent and bravest men and women in our society are cops. They are willing to give their lives to protect the public and are dedicated public servants.

    4. Hiring your own body guard is not dystopian.

  4. Remember, if you ever decide to shoot someone, tell them how much you love them while you do it. Don’t let hate rule.

    1. Old joke:
      Burglar hears footsteps behind him, and a voice says “My friend, we in this house be Quakers, and would not harm thee for all the world; but thou art are standing where I am about to shoot”.

  5. On the bright side, when this law is inevitably struck down, the opinion might be hilarious. (Now that I think of it, it could be hilarious in either direction, just the difference between “funny ha-ha” and “funny uh-oh.”)

    If I were a judge on a case about this law, my opinion would be less than 10 words.

  6. Wait, snowflake cops! Is that a thing? Is it like those mini suidea people got because they’re allergic to cats. Pussy pigs or something?

    1. If you saw the hearing about the “insurrection” on the capital you would believe all cops are crying snowflakes now

      1. The capitol police are largely window dressing security guards. How much violent crime actually occurs at the White House? Seriously – it’s all community relations and taking pictures for people for the most part. When has the kind of threat of Jan 6th EVER happened before? They were aghast at the idea that something life threatening would happen in the WH. Never thought it would happen – none of them.

  7. I wonder when someone will try to implement QI for citizens?

    1. I wonder when someone will try to implement IQ for cops?

      1. A police officer willing to give his life to protect yours is definitely lacking in IQ.

    2. Kim Foxx is testing that with a select group of citizens in Chicago right now.

  8. 1A >>> Nassau County. Keep up the fascism Long Island.

    1. It’s appalling that the redneck contingent passed this law. Absolutely incredible. But then again, our governor threatened schools who were going to mandate mask wearing in school. He told them he would cut off MILLIONS in state funding which public schooling cannot operate without. Shameless.

  9. Does it count as criticizing a cop if I badmouth the DA for not doing his job and prosecuting Antifa/BLM terrorists?

  10. introduced by Legislator Joshua A. Lafazan, an Independent. “Such violence is therefore a direct assault on the rule of law, every bit as much as suppression of speech by public authorities.”

    To be fair, we’ve established that speech is violence, so he’s got a point.

    1. You don’t get to pick and choose which bits of the fascist program you would like to support. Try not to find yourself supporting concentration camps for the speech=violence folks. Brains are pliable things. You can easily forget that violence=violence in your zeal to punish the Orwellians for their wrongthink.

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  12. Dumb law. Hasn’t been signed into law yet.

    1. I sure hope someone from ACLU is paying attention and steps up.

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  17. $50,000? Damn. That is a whole lot of “Covid bucks” and “child payments”. I’ll bet the criminals will wish that they could go back to the old “wood shampoo” days.

  18. clearly unconstitutional, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore

    1. That is the scariest part.

  19. No law is valid if it requires me, in any way, to waive any fundamentally protected right in order to exercise any other right or alleged privilege.

  20. Valid criticism of this article:
    There is a strong difference between criticism and harassment. This explicitly is about the latter.

    Now, we can say that we should be concerned about the law being too vague, but the headline is wrong. This bill does not say “criticism of a cop is illegal”. The police have huge leniency in court, but they will be quick to lose it if they act in the way you are suggesting this law allows them to

  21. Putting it bluntly, exactly what sort of idiot’s wet dreams are behind this type of legislation?

  22. You need to look at this proposed law differently.
    Since it will obviously be challenged by the ACLU & many others as an obvious violation of the 1st Amendment, Nassau County will need to hire a number of very expensive lawyers.
    So my guess is that this is just a payoff to those very expensive lawyers, who absolutely know they will lose the case, but bill Nassau County a huge sum foe defending the soon to be unconstitutional law & of course, a good percentage of that money will then go back to the Nassau County Board members who approved this idiotic law!

  23. “harass, menace, assault or injure an individual due to such individual’s status as a first responder.”

    Conspicuously absent from that list is “criticize”.

  24. As I’ve been saying for the last twenty years, we are not as free as we used to be, and we keep losing more and more every year. Sadly, Dems and Republicans do not seem to care nor act to prevent violations of our rights. There are only crickets heard.

  25. Cops should have the same rights as all citizens. Try doing what idiots do to cops to a UPS driver and see how fast you are arrested.

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