COLUMBUS, Ohio — A pair of Ohio Republican lawmakers say they want to further protect police and people they interact with by expanding the crime of obstruction of justice and legislating a necessary distance between the two sides.
Yet some argue the proposal is misguided and would make policing more difficult.
State Representatives Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township) and Shane Wilkin (Hillsboro) said one reason police matters turn violent is because cops can be egged on by a person or crowd who are not directly involved with a given incident.
"If you got somebody who is invading that space, taunting them, what have you, it creates a concern for public safety on both sides," LaRe said.
Now LaRe and Wilkin want to expand the crime of obstructing justice to include taunting or hitting an officer, throwing something at them, getting in the way of an arrest and/or failing to follow a lawful order.
"The idea is to diffuse high-stress critical situations in the performance of a law enforcement's duty," Wilkin said.
The proposal comes after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and violent protests last summer at the Ohio Statehouse.
But the sponsors of the proposal said the social unrest is not the main reason for the bill.
Gary Daniels with the ACLU of Ohio said the proposal not only includes redundancies but has several issues when it comes to taunting an officer and the First Amendment.
"If you were going to wear a shirt or a button or hat or wave a flag or whatever that criticizes or insults police, that's protected free speech under the Constitution,â" Daniels said.
Daniels also questions whether the law will be equally enforced.
Wilkin said it will if the situation remains peaceful.
"If you're sitting out there holding your sign (and) chanting whatever it is, I don't think you're gonna have a single bit of trouble. If they ask you to step back, to get out of the road and you don't, well then you might," Wilkin said.â
Ohioans can be charged with anything from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony for obstructing justice, which includes hitting or spitting on officers or lying to them.â