In recent times, there have been increasing incidences of police arresting people for criticizing them online, particularly through memes. Due to the First Amendment protections, these cases have been dropped.
But a new bill out of Kentucky aims to try again.
The Senate of the State of Kentucky passed a bill that criminalizes insulting the police. Critics of the bill claimed the legislation would have a chilling effect on free speech and is actually a violation of the First Amendment.
The Senate Bill 211 was brought by Sen Danny Carroll (R-Benton), who is a retired police officer. According to Carroll, the bill will serve as a statement to protesters who “tried to destroy the city of Louisville” during the Breonna Taylor protests and riots last year.
The bill increases penalties on crimes related to rioting and prevents the early release of people found guilty of such crimes. But the controversial part of the bill is the criminalizing of verbally provoking police officers to the extent they feel a violent response is necessary. It passed by a 22 to 11 vote, with six Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it.
Carroll insisted that “insulting an officer is not going to cause anyone to go to jail.” However, according to the Courier Journal, the bill “states a person is guilty of disorderly conduct — a Class B misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 90 days’ imprisonment — if he or she ‘accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges 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.’”