According to Fox News, a bill in Kentucky would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer to the point that the taunting provokes a violent response.
The bill advanced out of a state Senate committee in a 7-3 vote, per the report.
The proposal was a response to riots throughout the country last summer, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, a retired police officer.
“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, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“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 continued.
Fox News noted that Louisville saw significant social unrest last year after no criminal charges were filed against police officers in connection with the killing of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot during a police raid at her home in March 2020.
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.”
Corey Shapiro, an attorney with the ACLU of Kentucky, said “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 told the Courier-Journal. “And the First Amendment protects people’s ability to express themselves, even if it’s using offensive words to the police.”
According to the report, other provisions in the bill “would push back against the ‘defund the police’ movement and make a person who ‘knowingly’ provides supplies at a riot — that can be used as weapons or ‘dangerous instruments’ — subject to a riot-in-the-second-degree charge.”
The bill will now go to the full Senate and could be passed as early as next week, though not much time will remain in the 30-day session to also make it through the House, according to the paper.
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