Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo has signed a controversial measure that would punish people who annoy cops and first responders on the job.
A public hearing on the so-called "annoyance bill" was held Monday. It was the last step before the bill, which the Republican majority in the County Legislature passed last month in a party-line vote, went to Dinolfo’s desk.
The ordinance allows law enforcement to arrest people who annoy, alarm or threaten them while they’re working. The measure, which also covers first responders and peace officers on college campuses, has penalties of up to a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Comparable laws have been struck down by legal challenges elsewhere in the state. A similar law is up for a vote in Broome County later this year.
"I think it's incredibly important that we continue to support first responders not only in the county of Monroe but in the state of New York as they do their very important work here in this community," said Dinolfo.
While opponents say the law is vague and may be unconstitutional, Dinolfo said the measure would help law enforcement and first responders be "well protected" and "have the comfort so that they can get the job done on behalf of the residents in this community."
Dinolfo also said she has faith in the judgment of law enforcement personnel.
"I certainly trust that the law will be applied as intended, and I trust our law enforcement officers will do the right thing as they apply this law as they see fit in the public as we go forward," said Dinolfo.
Outside the county office building on Monday, the Rev. Lewis Stewart and a group of protesters continued their vocal opposition to the law. They said minorities will face the brunt of the law's effect.
"Minority communities are already overpoliced and criminalized. This will serve to criminalize more people in our community," said Stewart. "Our voices will be raised in protest. We will speak out for freedom. We will speak out for justice. And we will challenge this unjust law."
Stewart warned that the measure will make an already rocky relationship between police and minorities even more difficult.
The Genesee Valley ACLU's Ashley Gantt pledged to intensify the fight against the law.
"Wherever we have to annoy them, wherever we have to protest, wherever we have to stand up and stand out at, we will do it. Whether it's the gym, it's their homes, it's their workplace. Wherever we have to protest this bill, we will do it," said Gantt.
After the hearing, Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, a Democrat, released the following statement on the proposed legislation calling for Dinolfo to veto the law.
"There has been a groundswell of people pointing out the flaws in this bill and it should not be signed into law. I am proud to have listened to the community and voted against it last month. However, if the executive is determined to move Monroe County backwards, rest assured we will see the county in court. Before I allow this law to affect the citizens of Monroe County, I will pay for it out of my own pocket to get this bill thrown out. We have come too far to let hateful policies be enacted."