Joe DiCicco

Several local sheriffs are calling for more protections for police, as reported by the Finger Lakes Times, July 16 (“Sheriffs: Protect law enforcement as well”). Some protections police already enjoy include: being armed at nearly all times, batons, mace spray, body armor, qualified immunity, which protects them from both criminal and civil penalties for things like violating one’s civil rights during a traffic stop (i.e. use of excessive force).

Police also enjoy protections under the strongest unions in the United States. These unions make it extremely difficult to discipline police for wrongdoing, and often see previously terminated officers rehired at other departments.

One cannot help but wonder what more “protections” police could possibly want.

Livingston County sheriff Thomas Dougherty is quoted saying “with some notable exceptions, most of the recent tragic incidents which resulted in the injury or death of an individual at the hands of the police have begun with refusal by that individual to comply with a lawful order.”

What lawful order did 19-month-old Georgia infant Bounkham Phonesavanh refuse in 2014 when a flash grenade was thrown into his playpen during a no-knock warrant that exposed the child’s ribs upon detonation, and left his face permanently disfigured?

A no-knock warrant that was later discovered to have been served based on false information offered by a police informant.

How about Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old man in Colorado walking home from buying an iced tea at a convenience store last August? When an anonymous caller claimed he “looked suspicious,” police stopped McClain, who was not armed and had not committed any crime. Police claimed he resisted arrest, but was that reason enough to place him in a carotid chokehold and call paramedics, who injected him with ketamine? He had a massive heart attack en route to the hospital and died several days later. His final words to police were heartbreaking, as shortly before his heart attack he forgave police and cried that he was simply trying to better himself.

Did George Floyd deserve to die back in May because he initially refused a lawful order? Did he still deserve to die even after placed on the ground, in handcuffs, begging for his mother (who died years earlier)? Did that initial refusal warrant a knee to the throat for a solid nine minutes?

Believe it or not, as some assuredly will not, I am not “anti-police.”

I have the utmost respect for police who do their job within the confines of the law. I understand it can be a dangerous job, and I believe there is good within the police profession. But for the sake of this column, I’m not talking about the good.

Our nation quite obviously has a massive systemic problem that must be addressed.

Some of the new legislation these sheriffs are demanding seems exorbitant.

A felony to come within 25-feet of a police officer “engaged in his or her duties”? How will this distance be judged? Will police be carrying tape measures? Can they accurately judge this distance while preoccupied with other matters? And “engaged in his or her duties” is incredibly vague. I believe such a law could easily be abused.

Make it a felony to “surveil” a police officer with “no legitimate purpose”? So if an officer believes you’re looking in his direction without reason you can be charged criminally? Again, incredibly vague.

Offering a false accusation against an officer? So if you sincerely believe an officer did some wrong or violated his authority and you file a complaint, if that complaint is later found (by an internal investigation of his colleagues) to be false, you can be charged criminally? I don’t believe it’s a stretch to imagine how such a law could dissuade American citizens from holding police accountable through the formal complaint process.

These are just several new laws being proposed which seek to bolster the already profound protections American police enjoy. I believe very strongly such legislation would only further the rift between police and the public. This is not how to remedy the current nationwide issues and gain the trust of Americans.

Joe DiCicco is an author of horror and suspense fiction, as well as non-fiction articles concerning environmental and social issues. He has a degree in Environmental Conservation from Finger Lakes Community College and lives in Romulus.

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