Barclay: Stronger laws to protect police needed

PULASKI, NY —  Each day police officers put their lives on the line to protect our communities. From routine traffic stops to being the first to respond to an accident— their bravery protects us each day but their safety is not guaranteed.

Accordingly, we should do all we can to protect officers from harm and harassment as they work to protect the public. Unfortunately, due to anti-police rhetoric advanced on social media platforms disrespect of the police seems to be on the rise.

An example of this disrespect occurred this summer in New York City when police officers were doused with water from a bucket while they were attending to a 911 call. The incident was recorded and shared on social media to intentionally shame and embarrass police officers. Sadly, this is not the only time this has happened in recent weeks. A separate incident in New York City shows a pedestrian walking up to police officers and dousing them with water from a water bottle in one hand and holding a cell phone to record their reactions to it with his other hand.  Similar crimes have taken place in Atlanta and Philadelphia that were widely shared in the media since the New York incidents.

In response to these and similar incidents, legislation was recently introduced to increase penalties for these crimes. One bill would make it a felony to menace a police officer and another bill, with a similar goal, would establish a separate offense in the penal law for obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. Currently, perpetrators who commit these and similar offenses can only be charged with either obstructing a government administrator, disorderly conduct, or harassment—crimes which are either violations or misdemeanors but not felonies. I support these newly introduced bills that would make these type of actions felonies and would help protect our police officers.

Unfortunately, at least initially, it appears that the Assembly Majority opposes enhancing penalties to protect officers. After the legislation was introduced this month, the Assembly Speaker told the press that he is against these types of additional penalties without giving much of an explanation as to why.

Police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety and should have the support of the law behind them. We should be thanking them for what they do, not perpetrating disrespect. I will continue to press for these enhanced penalties and look forward to working with my colleagues to further protect police officers.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at or by calling (315) 598-5185.  You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.