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Sheriffs' association calls for more police protections; faith group says not so fast

Jul 29, 2020

Credit James Brown / WXXI News

The New York Sheriffs' Association wants to beef up penalties for people who commit crimes against law enforcement.

Executive Director Peter Kehoe said crimes against officers, like stalking and assault, have been on the rise in recent years. 

He also said doxxing, or revealing personal information about officers, is also increasing. 

“Police officers have a difficult job,” the proposal reads. “Most want to do the job right, and then go home safely to their families at the end of their shift. Unfortunately, in the current climate of disrespect for the police, again fostered by the words and actions of some politicians and community activists, some bad actors think they have been given license to harass and assault police officers with impunity.”

That’s why he said the association wants to change 10 state laws. Some of the changes: creating a new police holiday, offering a $500,000 death or disability benefit for officers or their family, and increasing penalties for people who commit crimes against officers. Kehoe also said they want any crime committed against an officer to be a hate crime.

“If you want to commit a crime against somebody, because they decided they would take the job of protecting the public, then there would be higher consequences for doing that,” said Kehoe. “If it’s fair game to protect people against who a crime is committed because of their sex, or their race, or their religion, or whatever other protective classes, why would (it) not be fair game to do the same thing for people who commit crimes against someone because they’re a police officer?”

The Rev. Lewis Stewart from the United Christian Leadership Ministry said these measures would cause more mistrust between police and the community.

“It would engender a wider chasm of division and mistrust that’s already there,” said Stewart. “So you think people are rebelling against cops now? They would do so further if these proposals became reality.

“There’s no doubt about it, it’s a knee-jerk retaliatory reaction to police reforms implemented by the State Legislature.”

Last year, New York state passed sweeping bail reforms that many law enforcement agencies said would make their job harder.

Chief among Stewart’s complaints about this new batch of measuresis the bill that would make it a Class D felony for someone to come within 25 feet of an on-duty cop if asked not to. Stewart said the sheriffs want to prevent people from filming the police. Kehoe disputes that, saying that his organization has no problem with filming police interactions, largely because a lot of them are on film anyway because of body cameras.

These bills are under consideration in the state Senate, but both Stewart and Kehoe say they face an uphill climb in the Assembly.

Ten Legislative Proposals by WXXI News on Scribd