Long Island police officers can take legal action again citizens for “seriously annoying” them, thanks to a new legislative bill passed in Nassau County on Monday.

The new bill, which is the first of its kind, allows Nassau County officers to sue anyone who attacks, injures or “harasses” them while on the job, as reported by VICE. In this case, however, “harassment” also includes any actions that “seriously annoy” them, like “following them” or committing any other “receptive” actions deemed “unnecessary.” Should a lawsuit result from cops being bothered, Nassau County can penalise alleged annoyers with fines up to $25,000 in civil circumstances, and $50,000 if the encounter occurs during a riot.

According to the Republican-leaning Legislature responsible for the bill, the motion was conceptualised in light of “destructive rioting and lawlessness” having “deliberately targeted and victimized law enforcement officers,” specifically citing events “since the close of May of last year” in reference to protests following the murder of George Floyd.

“The police are essential to protect the constitutional right of all citizens to protest inequities they see in society. The police are essential to protect citizens’ freedom to speak, or refrain from speaking, from individuals who would use threats and violence to silence those with whom they disagree or to enforce conformity of thought,” the text of the bill says.  “Accordingly, the Legislature concludes that the civil, human and constitutional rights of members of society are jeopardized when the police are prevented from carrying out their duty.”

The bill does not reference the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, despite several police officers having been threatened and attacked by citizens, resulting in PTSD. Four officers who were present on Jan. 6 have died by suicide since.

Dozens of Nassau residents oppose the bill, chanting “pull this bill” during a public county legislature meeting, and local police accountability advocates feel the bill is “dangerous.”

“This law is intended to intimidate those people who would put their bodies on the line for a moral imperative that cannot be denied,” Fred Brewington, an attorney and member of The Long Island Advocates For Police Accountability, told VICE. “The intent to chill and dampen protected speech and thwart protestors could not be more obvious.”

However Nassau legislator Josh Lafazan, who wrote the bill, asserts the bill won’t penalise peaceful protesters as the behaviour outlined in the bill is already illegal.

“The crimes of harassment and menacing have been on the books for a long time, yet we haven’t seen them used to suppress freedom of speech like the critics of this bill allege,” Lafazan said. “Why do we think they will have that effect now? Why shouldn’t we trust the American judicial system to apply these laws in a constitutional manner civilly just as they have applied them in a criminal context?”

The bill has yet to be signed by the country executive.

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