Is it legal to insult a cop?


If you insult someone in public, they can ignore you, insult you back, or react with violence. If the person you are insulting is a cop, they can also arrest you, even though the charges are almost always thrown out of court. The Marshall Project looks at six cases in which people hurt a cop's feelings and were arrested for it.

The middle finger

State: Connecticut Case: State of Connecticut v. Anonymous (Superior Court of Connecticut, 1977)

Summary: A school bus, taking high school students home, stopped at an intersection. A police cruiser stopped behind the bus. A Connecticut court describes what happened next: “The defendant (a student in the back of the bus) wiped the condensation off the rear window of the bus and, upon seeing the trooper, waved a school chum over to him and then proceeded to make a gesture toward the trooper in which the middle finger of the defendant's right hand was held in an upright position with the palm of the hand toward the defendant.” The trooper hit his siren, boarded the bus, and arrested the student, who was charged with and convicted of making an obscene gesture.

Finding: On appeal, a court threw out the conviction, writing: “To be obscene the expression must be, in a significant way, erotic. … It can hardly be said that the finger gesture is likely to arouse sexual desire. The more likely response is anger.”

Image: Shutterstock

Notable Replies

  1. Cops have feelings too!

    • Hate
    • Rage
    • Disgust
    • Contempt

    And apparently, though it only comes out after they've killed someone, their emotional experience is dominated by Fear.

  2. I had thought the question of flipping the bird was settled long ago but this

    tells me that the court originally found the student guilty. That original judge needs to be removed.
    From the linked article

    “The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”

    Sounds like this is a police state unless you have the money to make an appeal

  3. Quite contraire... They are always calling out for love.

  4. Indeed, specifically this:

    The trooper hit his siren, boarded the bus, and arrested the student, who was charged with and convicted of making an obscene gesture.

    Seems to me that if you flip an officer the bird, you have a reasonable chance of not only getting arrested but convicted.

    The demographics of people who read Boing Boing probably include those who would appeal and have the decision overturned.

    A poor black teenager would probably stay in jail.

  5. Well that certainly changes the meaning of the statements that always follow...

    "I'm going in!" and "I got your back!" and "You take the rear!" smile

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