On March 20, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana signed into law Senate Bill 1.  This bill:

 Provides that a person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to:

(1) protect the person or a third person from unlawful force

(2) prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling; or (3) prevent or terminate the public servant’s criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession.

The law further states:

a person is not justified in using deadly force against a public servant whom the person knows or reasonably should know is a public servant unless:

(1) the person reasonably believes that the public servant is acting unlawfully or is not engaged in the execution of the public servant’s official duties; and

(2) the force is reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person.

I spoke with Senator R. Michael Young’s staff.  State Senator Young was one of the co- authors of the bill.  When I asked for the reasons for the bill, I was informed this would correct the actions of a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, which they felt, had trampled on the protections of the 4th Amendment.  They further stated that this was a revision of a law from 1974 that was revised in 2006 and the new bill would return us to the intent of the 2006 law.

I pointed out to the Senator’s office, that there were already protections in place that safeguard 4th Amendment rights.  Further, natural incentives are already in place in every police department’s procedures to ensure compliance and ensure that the officers respect the rights of the homeowner.  When I pointed out that this law could lead to a great deal of confusion which would result in unnecessary violence and injury to both police and citizens the response from the Senator’s office was “Nothing that has been suggested by the other side has ever occurred under the current law.”

Articles written since the signing spoke of “a vicious smear campaign by bloggers that grievously misrepresented the bill language blaming them for causing the public to be severely misinformed.”  Unfortunately attempts to get further information from the authors of the bill were met with little to clear up the situation.

As of the morning of March 20, Governor Daniels was still undecided on the bill as reported by the Evansville Courier and Press.  He said he would be meeting with both sides of the argument that day before making his decision on the bill.  He decided that evening and the bill was signed.

This new law places property over lives.  The new law clearly says the officers have to be unlawfully entering the properly for the property owner to resist.  It also says the person has to reasonably believe the officers are acting unlawfully before they can resist.

The proponents of the bill say the bill strengthens the protection of Indiana law enforcement officers by narrowing the situations in which someone would be justified in using force against them.  This is true.  Only one problem exists with this understanding of the bill.  This determination will only be made after the smoke clears and people have been hurt.  This law may require the property owner to have more than an average citizen’s knowledge of criminal and constitutional law to make the determination of lawfulness.  To expect the homeowner to make the proper determination or lawfulness at the time of the entry places all parties at risk.

Officers entering the property will, in all probability, believe they are entering lawfully.  The entry will not be determined to be lawful or unlawful entry until after the fact.  The property owner who reasonably believes that the officers are entering illegally and then resists entry will be subdued and arrested.  If the property owner uses deadly force and it is later determined to be that the officers were entering lawfully someone will possibly be dead.

If the person chooses not to resist there will be lawsuits and court time and eventually if he can show the officers entered unlawfully he will be a wealthy and healthy man.

The protection for the officer is also after the fact.  If the property owner resists unlawfully he will be prosecuted accordingly.  This is a case of too little too late.

I understand some of the legislator’s beliefs that they are making things better.  The statute values property over life.  I cannot think of anything I may own that’s worth more than my life or another’s life.  I see no reason to harm another to protect my property when there are measures in place to safeguard things after the fact.

I may be inconvenienced or humiliated a little, but I will not be killed or seriously injured if, I, as a citizen do not resist the officer’s entry.  Common sense dictates that the trained officers making entry believe their entry is lawful and are more than likely to win if I physically try to resist their entry.  If I decide to use deadly force, they will respond in kind and there is a very good chance I would then die as well as an officer.  Is your castle worth this?  Even if I was correct and did have a reasonable belief, would this have been a good choice?

I fear that by specifically including public servants in this bill they are expressing distrust in the public servants of Indiana.  I asked the Senator’s staff if there had been a rash of problems of this nature.  They brought forth only one case of Barnes v. State of Indiana.  The ridiculous issue is that there WAS NO illegal entry in this case.

Are the people and legislators of Indiana so afraid of the public servants in their state that they need to enact this bill?   If this is the case should not they be looking to correct this problem instead?

I definitely see the need to uphold the protections of the 4th Amendment.  I however believe this may have gone too far.  I think that the protections purported to be there for the police officer will only protect them legally after one of the officers is injured or killed.  I believe that the protections for the property owner will mislead them into illegal and dangerous actions.

I have read a lot of contrary opinions on this issue however none of them convince me of the practicality of this law.  Yes, my home is my castle and I should have the right to protect it, but should that be at the cost of lives?

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Lt. Robert Weisskopf is a 30-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.  Lt. Weisskopf comes from a law enforcement family, including two uncles, a nephew, and his father.  Weisskopf wears his father’s lieutenant’s star.  Lt. Weisskopf is a graduate of Lewis University with a degree in criminal justice. He currently serves as commanding officer of the Chicago Police Department’s Alternate Response Section, which has approximately 200 officers, a unit bigger than most police departments in the United States.  

During his decade-long tenure, the unit has increased officer response from handling three calls per day to 8 calls an hour.  He has been a patrol officer, a district rapid response sergeant, and a watch commander in the 17th District.  He spent a year detailed to HUD performing public housing narcotics investigations. 

Weisskopf is an expert in collaborative leadership and informally mentoring younger officers.  He enjoys the constant challenge of policing and problem solving.   He just finished a five-year term as President of the Chicago Police Lieutenants Association, the collective bargaining organization for the Chicago Police Department’s lieutenants and was chief negotiator of the current contract.