N.Y. sheriffs propose stronger legal protections for police

The proposals include making any crime against a police officer because of his or her police status a hate crime


By Thomas J. Prohaska
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Police officers need more legal protection to do their jobs better, and a package of laws increasing penalties for assaulting, harassing or disobeying officers would accomplish that, acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael J. Filicetti said Wednesday.

The proposals included making any crime against a police officer because of his or her police status a hate crime; making resisting arrest a felony requiring bail, instead of the misdemeanor it is now; and making May 15, Peace Officers Memorial Day, a state holiday when the governor would be required by law to appear in person at a ceremony in Albany.

A Niagara County Sheriff's Office cruiser in Lockport, New York. (Photo/Niagara County Sheriff's Office)
A Niagara County Sheriff's Office cruiser in Lockport, New York. (Photo/Niagara County Sheriff's Office)

He spoke at a news conference, one of five held around the state by members of the state Sheriffs' Association, calling for tougher laws to protect police.

"Unfortunately in the current climate of disrespect for the police, again fostered by the words and actions of some politicians and community leaders, some individuals think they've been given a license to harass and assault police officers," said Filicetti, one of several Niagara County leaders who "took a knee" at protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd May 25 in Minneapolis.

"We're not against police reform, we're not against policing our own, we're not against following the executive order from the governor," Filicetti said. "We are against what's happening to cops across the state and across the country. ... Cops are stepping from what they're supposed to be doing because they do not have the support of the elected officials."

The news conferences came as the president of the state troopers' union demanded the withdrawal of all uniformed troopers from New York City in protest against a new city law restricting some types of police restraint tactics.

Filicetti said his own officers are "concerned" about their safety.

"It doesn't work without law enforcement," Filicetti said at an event where he was joined by sheriffs from Allegany, Wyoming and Orleans counties and police chiefs from Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Barker and Middleport.

"It should be readily apparent to all that most of the recent tragic incidents that resulted in the death or injury of an individual at the hands of the police have begun with a refusal by that individual to comply with a lawful order," Filicetti said.

He called for laws increasing the penalties for resisting arrest, assault and harassment of officers, and another law that would make it a felony for a person to remain within 25 feet of an officer performing a police duty.

The sheriffs also suggested it should be a felony to "dox" an officer by posting personal information online, or to stalk an officer by approaching within 100 yards of the officer's home in an attempt at intimidation.

"To the extent that these are real bills, we'll review them," said Jason Conwall, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The sheriffs' suggestions have not yet been introduced into the state Legislature.

©2020 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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