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NY county could make harassing cops a hate crime

Protesters line up around Columbus Police on the corner of East Board Street and High Street during a George Floyd protest near the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio in May 30, 2020. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch/TNS]
August 04, 2021

The Legislature in Nassau County, New York, voted 12 to 6 Monday to pass a bill that makes it a hate crime to “harass, menace, assault or injure” first responders, allowing emergency personnel to sue activists.

In the bill, the Legislature “notes with extreme concern that in many jurisdictions, outbreaks of destructive rioting and lawlessness have deliberately targeted and victimized law enforcement officers and other first responders.”

“This Legislature further recognizes that the clear intent of some of these attacks is to hinder or prevent the police from performing their duty to enforce the law and safeguard society from chaos and mass violence,” the bill states.

“It is the emphatic judgment of the Legislature that no law enforcement officer should be subjected to actual or threatened physical assault and abuse in the performance of his or her duties – not only because police officers are human beings deserving of respect, dignity and equal protection of law, but also because they are the indispensable first line of defense for everyone’s fundamental civil and human rights,” it continued.

The bill also states that if a first responder is in uniform, there is an “irrebuttable presumption” that any harassment is directly motivated by the first responders profession.

“There is no justification for violence against first responders,” said Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan, the bill’s sponsor. “And these bills will add further protections into law for Nassau County’s first responders as they protect us.”

LEX18 reported that harassed first responders can sue for up to $25,000 per violation, and up to $50,000 if the harassment occurs during a riot.

Civil rights groups criticized the legislation, including civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington who said the legislation is “a clear act of retaliation against Black Lives Matter.”

“This is trying to shut down and dampen and chill the voices of those who would dissent and raise their voices against abuse by police,” Brewington claimed.

The Garden City Patch reported that Tracy Edwards, regional director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Long Island, also blasted the new bill.  

“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,” Edwards said.

“Police officers, if they are harassed, they can arrest people. They can use the law. That’s why we have legislation,” she continued. “We have wonderful police officers who can protect themselves. They do not need to have a human rights law to put them above all others.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curren has not yet signed the bill into law, but said she would reach out to the New York Attorney General’s Office to determine the best course of action.

Attorney General’s Office to “provide some advice” on how to proceed, WLEX reported.

“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,” Curran said in a statement. “My Administration is committed to protecting the brave men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe.”