In response to a series of incidents, one Republican elected official wants to make spraying cops with liquids a crime.
Standing in front of City Hall last week, New York State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa), joined by other Assembly Republicans including Nicole Malliotakis, introduced legislation that would make throwing or spraying water or any other substance on a police officer a Class E felony. Under LiPetri’s bill, a person could serve one to four years in prison for “menacing a police officer in the second degree.”
“What we are witnessing in New York City is disgraceful,” said LiPetri to reporters at City Hall. “A culture of blatant disrespect for law enforcement has been fostered and encouraged simply for political gain which has resulted in such despicable acts of hate becoming acceptable in our communities. New York State must send a message that this will not be tolerated and I am confident that this bill provides law enforcement the tools they need to properly react.”
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said state and city governments need to take a second look at recent policies enacted by legislators that they feel clamp down on good policing.
“We are calling on City Hall and Albany to roll back the existing policies that have emboldened criminals, and to create meaningful penalties for anyone who harasses or interferes with a police officer in the course of his or her official duties,” stated Lynch. “At a minimum, there should be a felony charge for assaulting a police officer by throwing or spraying water or any other substance, and a misdemeanor charge for the attempt to do so. It’s time for lawmakers to take a stand against disorder, on behalf of their constituents and the cops who protect them.”
In July, there were four separate incidents in Harlem, Brooklyn and The Bronx of residents dousing officers with water while dealing with the most recent heat wave. The incidents drew the ire of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, who called for the firing of Police Commissioner James O’Neill on its Twitter page.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also condemned the people involved in the incidents.
“These acts are harmful not only to the officers targeted but also to the larger community and the conversation around better policing—officers are trained to show discipline, but that doesn’t mean they should be absurdly tested,” stated Williams. “It’s also unacceptable to use these incidents to try to deny or destroy steps of progress made in policing or to suggest ‘lawlessness.’”
But there are those who think the mere presence of this proposed bill is folly. Anne Oredeko, supervising attorney of the racial justice unit at The Legal Aid Society, said the bill is absurd on its surface. She also said trying to put it in the same class as other crimes is wrong.
“It’s truly an embarrassing day for the New York State Legislature when its lawmakers are willing to waste time and energy to introduce legislation to criminalize water splashing on police, categorizing the crime in the same legal category as third-degree rape, female genital mutilation and fourth-degree arson,” stated Oredeko to the AmNews. “As if officers do not already have many legal protections—as evidenced by the immense difficulty that Black and Latinx communities have experienced when attempting to hold individual officers and precincts accountable for gross violations of human rights.
“Thankfully this bill is dead on arrival and it will die in committee,” continued Oredeko. “Instead of wasting time on chasing sensational headlines, these legislators should focus on the true needs of their constituents.”