The New York Senate has passed a bill making it illegal to "harass" a police officer by "any type of physical action" -- even action that does not otherwise constitute interference, obstruction or assault. Given that "obstruction" and "interference" are famously broad, it's hard to imagine what conduct the police and the NY Senate believe they need to control by statute, though there's a clue in the statutory language, which makes it a felony to "harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty."

In other words, if you cause any physical contact with a police officer, even unintentionally, even if the contact does not rise to the level of assault or obstruction or interference, you can be convicted of a felony and imprisoned if the officer can show that your conduct "annoyed" him. This is the kind of statute that seems calculated to allow the police and prosecutors to put people in jail for very long stretches (remember that 97% of people indicted for felonies in the USA plead guilty under threat of decades of prison should they fight and lose) just because they don't like them very much.

I'm reminded of Toronto's notorious "Officer Bubbles", Adam Josephs, who told a G20 protester that if any soap bubbles were to touch him, he could consider it assault (and who violently arrested the protester on that basis). The world laughed (albeit with some weary cynicism) at the idea that a large, armed man could call incidental contact with a soap-bubble "assault." But the New York Senate has effectively given police the power to literally treat mere annoyances as felonious conduct.

“At a time when shocking incidents of disrespect and outright confrontation are at an all-time high, the men and women who patrol the streets of our cities deserve every possible protection we can offer them,” Senator Griffo stated. “My bill would make it a crime to take any type of physical action to try to intimidate a police officer. This is a necessary action because we can see from the rise in incidents that too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer. We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty.”

Senate Passes Bill Making the Harassment of a Police Officer a Crime