ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some state lawmakers want to stiffen the penalties for assaulting a sports official. The proposed bill would increase legal protections for officials who are harassed or assaulted on the job.
“It’s becoming a problem across the state,” said state Sen. Rich Funke (R-55), who is reintroducing the bill. “Another number of states have laws to protect their officials. I though it was about time we did the same thing. “
Sen. Funke says it’s time to adopt a zero tolerance policy. Attacks on officials here in Rochester and across the state are increasing.
“The level and degree of what is being said to officials has increased over time from society from the people who attend the games,” said Dale Trott, president of the Rochester District Board of Basketball Officials.
Under the re-introduced bill physically assaulting an official would be a Class D felony and could mean up to seven years in prison. For harassment it’s a Class B misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.
Referee Peter McCabe says the bill needs to be passed. He was badly injured in 2009. He was deliberately hit in the face with a football helmet. McCabe had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s lacrosse, basketball, or football there are issues coming out of the stands,” said McCabe. “We need that deterrent because there are a lot of officials being threatened every week in this business.”
Sen. Funke says officials are human and errors can happen. But attacking officials isn’t the answer.
“Human error is a part of atheletic competition,” said Senator Funke. “It’s also a part of being an official. Let’s respect it, let’s put sportsmanship back into sports and let’s move on from there. “
The senator says he wants the proposed bill to be introduced to Albany lawmakers in January and passed in the next session.
The bill was originally introduced in 2012.
Currently there are 21 states that have passed specific laws making it a crime to target sports officials.