Police reform efforts are sparking legislative backlash – FindLaw


Police formed a line during public unrest.

Many Americans believe the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murder will lead to police reform across the country.

Although prosecutors made it clear that their focus was on a single defendant and not on the police in general, some legal experts said the substance of the verdict was clear. For example, says Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska, Samuel Walker USA Today Despite the plaintiffs ’argument,“ I think there will be a response and that mayors and governors will call for more police reforms. ”

Even before the ruling, dozens of states passed more than 140 new police reform laws at this legislative session, he said New York times.

But other states and other rulers see things differently. Alarmed by the civil unrest that erupted last year after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Chauvin, these states and conservatives seek to suppress the protesters – and as part of this goal, they want to give the police More Protection and strength rather than less.

Florida leads the way

At the forefront of this movement is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is already considered one of the first candidates to nominate the Republican presidential nomination for 2024.

Last September, DeSantis revealed his proposal Law on Combating Violence, Disturbance, and Pillaging and Law Enforcement Protection It is a very broad and controversial measure that was immediately attacked by critics as unconstitutional but endorsed by supporters as the kind of drastic measures the country needed.

This procedure became law under a simpler name, namely Law to Combat Public Unrest, When DeSantis signed it into law on April 19 after it was passed by the Senate, 23-17, the previous week. Two days later, a group of civil rights lawyers A. Federal lawsuit The constitutionality of the law is challenged, more lawsuits are expected.

Here are some of the law’s controversial provisions:

  • Any domestic efforts to “eliminate police funding” can be nullified. The law permits state attorneys in every judicial district or member of a city commission to challenge cuts to the police budget. The appeal is then reviewed by the governor’s office, which can then issue a final review order by a committee that includes the governor and state cabinet.
  • Anyone who drives through a group of protesters blocking a road can be granted civil statutory immunity.
  • Any protester blocking a highway could be charged with a felony.
  • All Confederate monuments are protected.
  • Police have broad new powers to issue misdemeanor arrests during protests.
  • The law created a new crime, “mob intimidation,” which is defined as three or more people who “act with common intent” to threaten someone to take a stand against their will.
  • It also creates another new crime, which is “aggravated riots”, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
  • It prevents people arrested because of riots from getting bail out of prison until their first appearance in court.
  • It also makes any city liable for bodily harm and property if it prevents the police from protecting the property.

Protest restrictions and police protection will expand

If these judgments got your breath faster, you probably should have. And you may get used to it. Other countries are taking or intending to take similar steps.

Republican lawmakers, mostly motivated by last year’s protests, have introduced 81 bills against protest in 34 states this year through April 22, according to New York times. Eli Page, Senior Legal Counsel at International Legal Center for Not-for-Profit LawFor The Times, that’s double the usual number.

The most recent, on April 21, is the Oklahoma Act, HP 1674That is similar to Florida. It protects drivers who strike protesters “unintentionally” or who do so while “fleeing riots” and imposes a misdemeanor penalty with a fine of up to $ 5,000 for people who disrupt the “normal use” of a street or highway. It also requires that any person organization that “conspires” with individuals found guilty of certain crimes will be fined 10 times the maximum amount an individual may face.

Like Oklahoma and Florida, Iowa bill is pending, SF 534, Would provide immunity for drivers who beat protesters if they did so during “due diligence.”

In Indiana, Senate Bill 34 Anyone convicted of committing a riot is prohibited from future employment by the state or local government and renders them ineligible for “certain state and local benefits.”

In Minnesota, SF 2381 It would make anyone convicted of rioting from receiving any form of government assistance, including student loans, rental assistance, and medical aid.

And in Iowa, SF 479 Any local entity that tries to remove police funding is penalized.

Where is the constitutional line?

After signing a new Florida law on April 19, DeSantis hailed it as “the nation’s strongest anti-riot, pro-law enforcement legislation. Nothing is even close.”

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprouls said that by enacting the new law, Florida is “standing up to mob violence and standing behind our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day for protection and service.”

But Vera Edelman, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times that the actions in Florida and elsewhere “are in line with the general tendency of lawmakers to respond to strong and persuasive protests by seeking to silence them rather than engaging with them. The protest message. If there is anything,” “The lesson learned from last year and decades is not that we need to provide more tools for police and prosecutors, but rather that they are misusing the tools they already have.”

Everyone agrees that Americans have the right to protest if they are peaceful about it. This is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. But do these new “riot control” laws, like the one in Florida, properly recognize this right as their most important consideration? Or does it seek to weaken this right?

Constitutional legal challenges may provide an answer.

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