Rochester, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Legislature approved a controversial new bill that would punish people who are found to have harassed first responders.
The bill sparked debate in legislative chambers on Tuesday night. It passed 17-10.
The bill defines harassment broadly, everything from annoying a first responder to assaulting one. Punishments include jail time and/or an up to $5,000 fine.
Republican legislator Karla Boyce helped draft the legislation.
“This is about something I thought I did the right thing to protect our law enforcement, EMS and first responders,” said Karla Boyce, Republican, 5th Legislative District.
“We know that our law enforcement does have discretion when they are going to charge somebody with a crime this law will be do different than that. They will have the discretion to use this or not,” said Boyce.
Those who voted against the measure claim it could be abused and is unnecessary.
“What constitutes annoyance? I mean I get annoyed several times a day. Is that criminal? So it’s really a dangerous road to go down when you start creating subjective criteria to arrest people,” said Vince Felder, democrat, 22nd Legislative District.
“There are enough laws, state laws, on the book to protect police officers from assault, from harassment and really you don’t need this law and I think its just pandering to somebody,” said Felder.
Democrats say they believe the bill will be challenged in court.