Back the blue: County passes bill allowing police to sue protesters who harass or injure them

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LONG ISLAND, NY – Nassau County legislators voted Monday to approve a bill that would allow police and other first responders to sue protesters who harass or injure them.

The bill, which passed the Nassau County legislature on a 12-6 vote, still needs the signature of county executive Laura Curran.

The bill would allow first responders to sue anyone who harasses, attacks, or injures them while they are in uniform. Under the bill, Nassau County police officers and other responders would be a protected class under the county’s human rights law.

During hours of heated debate before the bill’s passage, supporters argued the bill provided protection to officers in the face of “destructive riots and lawlessness” targeting law enforcement following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Critics of the bill claim the action is direct retaliation against Black Lives Matter and the social justice movement.  Critics claim the bill will suppress protests against police brutality and abuse.

Tracey Edwards, the NAACP’s regional director, argued that police already could arrest people who harass them and that the bill “disrespected” activists and organizations that fought against discrimination:

“What you are doing with this bill is you are taking this profession and you are putting that chosen profession above all of those people who fought during the Civil Rights movement.”

Civil rights attorney Fred Brewington said:

“This is an enormous grant of power to police who don’t need to have this power and also don’t need to try to utilize a lawsuit that will basically silence individuals by threatening them that they could lose their livelihood, lose their property, and their bank accounts.”

On the other side of the issue, Brian Sullivan, president of Nassau County Correction Officers Benevolent Association, called the law necessary because of the “widespread pattern of physical attacks and intimidation directed at police.”

One public commenter argued the bill was too vague, not defining harassment, menacing or other conduct. The commentator said the lack of definitions gave too much power to police.

The commentator argued that under the bill, former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the death of George Floyd, could have arrested the bystanders who yelled at him as he pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck.

Under the bill, first responders could sue for civil penalties of $25,000 per violation or a total of $50,000 if the violation occurs during a riot.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she will seek advice before signing the bill. Her officer issued a statement saying:

“I’m proud of the dedicated first responders who’ve made Nassau the safest county in America, and I will continue to stand against defunding the police. My administration is committed to protecting the brave men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe.

“There were many speakers today who questioned this legislation. Now that it has been passed by the Legislature, I will be making an inquiry to the Attorney General’s Office to review and provide some advice.”

Legislator Josh Lafazan sponsored the bill and told the media:

“There is no justification for violence against law enforcement officers. And these bills will add further protections in law to protect Nassau County’s finest as they protect us.

“Our collective safety remains in jeopardy so long as those who are sworn to protect us aren’t protected themselves.”

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‘Squad’ member Pressley calls for ‘radical re-imaging’ of law enforcement, ending qualified immunity

June 25, 2021

 

 WASHINGTON, DC – “Squad” member Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)., said she still supports a “radical re-imagining” of law enforcement as crimes surge across America, including anti-police attacks.

When questioned on whether she still supports defunding the police in light of the recent spike in violent crime, Rep. Pressley told CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight” on Wednesday that she supported a “re-imagining of policing and an end to police qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity is a protection that shields government officials from being personally sued for violating somebody’s rights in the course of reasonably doing their jobs, unless the breached rights are “clearly established in the law.”

Officers are not currently protected by qualified immunity of they go beyond their authority or violate a constitutional right.

Host Don Lemon pointed out that dozens of cities and counties across the country have reported increases in homicides and aggravated assaults this year, and asked if she still supported removing funds from police budgets.

Lemon asked:

“I want to talk about this new report that shows dozens of cities and counties are seeing an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults this year, but you support defunding the police. Is that the right message for where we are right now?

Presley responded with an answer going around the question:

“You know, Don, what I support is our making investments in communities that have historically been under investment — under invested in, divested from, forcing people to struggle to meet their most basic needs and often times that behavior just to survive is criminalized.

“And that’s everything from poverty to homelessness to substance use disorder to mental health, and so, you know, what I support is an investment in community, and I think if we do that robustly, in a targeted way, particularly to those communities that have historically been under resourced, that supports the health of community, the stabilization of families and in turn, that supports public safety.”

The unclear answer led Lemon, a staunch supporter of Black Lives Matter and the Democratic Party, to push Pressley for clarification of her position:

“Listen, I don’t want to put words in your mouth or mischaracterize what you support. You don’t support defunding the police. You support what you’re saying right now. Is defunding the police not part of something you support?”

Pressley responded that she was for “reallocating” away from policing:

“Don, what I support, and it’s why I put forward bills like my Counseling Not Criminalization Act is that instead of our spending $1 billion over the last two decades to have 46,000 school police officers when every child does not have equitable access to a school nurse, a social worker or a guidance counselor, some of the ratios are one counselor for every 2,000 students.

“So yes, I support a radical reimagining of community safety and public safety, which means reallocating and not further investing in a carceral state, especially, Don, when we have not yet ended qualified immunity. So that needs to be the priority is police accountability.”

The Counseling Not Criminalization Act calls for the prohibition of using federal funds for sworn law enforcement officers in schools. It also establishes a grant program to replace sworn law enforcement officers in schools with personnel and services that support mental health and trauma-informed services.

Violence against police officers, especially ambush attacks, has skyrocketed this year, and the National Fraternal Order of Police blames the rise partially on the defund movement.

So far in 2021, 155 officers have been killed in the line of duty, a 9% increase from this time period in 2020.

There were 151 officers killed in all of 2019. That number exploded in 2020 to 366. This year is on track to exceed 2020.

Patrick Yoes, National FOP president said:

“I think that the present climate that we see throughout the country right now and the dehumanization of law enforcement is certainly, I think, having some impact on the aggression towards law enforcement.

“There’s definitely a lack of respect.”

 

 

 

 

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