‘Back the Blue Bill’: Iowa House passes bill broadening legal protections for police

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DES MOINES, IA – According to reports, legislators within the Iowa House were said to have passed a bill that would afford broadened legal protections for police officers while also increasing penalties for various offenses committed during protests.

On April 14th, the Iowa House was said to have passed Senate file 342 in a 63-30 vote in favor. Apparently, eight Democrats wound up siding with Republicans on this bill that has been coined as the “Back the Blue Bill.”

The spirit of this bill is to increase the penalties associated with criminal behavior that has historically transpired at the likes of protests and riots; while the bill also makes it a criminal offense to shine or direct laser pointers at police officers.

With respect to the increased penalties aspect of the bill, reportedly rioting charges will be upgraded from a misdemeanor offense to a felony offense. Furthermore, the likes of blocking highways and streets as well as destroying public property will now levy harsher criminal penalties.

Within the bill is also a provision that would see drivers who hit protesters with their vehicle, under some specific circumstances, will be immune from civil liabilities associated with incident of this sort.  

Republican Representative Jarad Klein notes that this bill is also meant to address the sorts of riots that occurred back in the summer of 2020:

“What we’ve seen is not peaceful protesting. What we’ve seen is destruction and damage in our communities.”

There has been some criticism from Democrats regarding the bill, with Representative Christina Bohannan alleging that this bill may needlessly create strife between law enforcement and groups like Black Lives Matter:

“I think this bill unnecessarily pits law enforcement against groups like Black Lives Matter and other protesters.”

While the bill has managed to make its way through the House, it still needs to make its way through the Senate for it to arrive at Governor Kim Reynolds’ office for signing.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we gather updates on this pending bill.

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Meanwhile in California, Law Enforcement Today reported on a proposed bill that could see police officers terminated for carrying generally conservative views. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SACRAMENTO, CA– A California assembly member has introduced legislation that if passed, would disqualify a person from being a police officer if that person has ever used “hate speech” or have had any affiliation with a “hate group.”

According to reports, California Assembly Member Ash Kalra introduced Assembly Bill 655, the California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act (CLEAR Act) back on February 12th to allegedly fight “the infiltration of extremists in our law enforcement agencies.”

Opponents, however, have stated that the way the bill is currently written is too broad and would also ban officers from expressing certain views like opposing abortion. Kalra, author of the bill said:

“You have a constitutional right to have racist and bigoted views. You don’t have a constitutional right to be a police officer.”

If passed, the bill would require that a background check for law enforcement applicants include finding out if the candidate is a member of a hate group or has participated in hate group activities. If so, the candidate could be disqualified.

The bill also targets current law enforcement officers. If after an investigation into hate group participation is found to be true, the officer could be fired from the department. Kalra said in a statement:

“The role and responsibility of peace officers is so important for a community healing, for a community’s safety and the people in the community don’t feel that those that are entrusted with that responsibility look at them in a way that’s unbiased.

That undermines our entire public safety system.”

According to the legislation:

“A finding during a preemployment background investigation of present or past participation in hate speech shall be grounds for denial of employment as a peace officer.”

The law would also require that any internal or external complaints about a law enforcement officer alleging such conduct be thoroughly investigated. Any sustained complaints would be made available to the public. 

The proposed legislation attempted to define several ambiguous terms that were used in Kalra’s bill. Assembly Bill 655 defined a “hate group” as:

“An organization that based upon its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities, supports, advocates for, or practices the denial of constitutional rights of the genocide of or violence towards, any group or persons based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”

As defined in the bill, “membership in a hate group” means:

“Being or holding oneself out as an official member of a group and can be indicated by actions or evidence including without limitation, submitting an application for membership in a group, being listed as an official group membership roster, or publicly wearing or otherwise displaying any tattoo, uniform, insignia, flag, or logo that is reserved for members of that group.”

In Assembly Bill 655, “hate speech” is referred to as, “public expression of hate,” which is broadly described as:

“Any explicit expression, either on duty or off duty and while identifying oneself as or reasonably identifiable by others as, a peace officer in a public uniform, on social media including in a private discussion forum, in writing, or in speech, as advocating or supporting the denial of constitutional rights of, the genocide of, or violence towards any group of person based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”

The new law also includes:

“The public display of any tattoo, uniform, insignia, flag, or logo that indicates support for the denial of constitutional rights of, the genocide of, or violence towards any group of person based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”

Kalra’s document explained that Assembly Bill 655 has been written to address the heightened “reality and dangers or employing peace offices with known hate group affiliations.” Kalra said:

“Most recently, the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building by right wing extremists with the apparent cooperation, participation, and support of some law enforcement and military personnel, underscores the threat that extremist infiltration poses to equal justice and the rule of law.”

Matthew McReynolds, a staff attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute, wrote a letter to the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety. In his letter, he expressed his concern about the broad and purposefully arbitrary definitions in the proposed bill. 

He said that the language in the bill could lead to conservative law enforcement officers and candidates being classified as “hateful” based on their opposition to abortion and other such things. He also questioned how the bill would affect Muslims who have taken a stance against homosexuality. He wrote:

“Under the guise of addressing police gangs, the bill at the same time launches an inexplicable, unwarranted, and unprecedented attack on peaceable, conscientious officers who happen to hold conservative political and religious views.”

He added:

“Indeed, this is one of the most undisguised and appalling attempts we have ever seen, in more than 20 years of monitoring such legislation on the freedom of association and freedom to choose minority viewpoints.”

California Family Council Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt said in a statement:

“I think everyone can agree that no one wants cops serving us who belong to violent hate groups, but this bill goes far beyond that. It actually goes after individual cops who simply have conservative social views on issues like marriage.”

He added:

“I think there’s a mistake in assuming that Christians who have conservative views on moral issues are going to be a threat to folks who disagree with them.”

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