After Republicans prioritized a bill this year cracking down on riots, at least one lawmaker wants to penalize people who harass police officers.
Hialeah Republican Rep. Alex Rizo filed a measure (HB 11) Monday that would prohibit people from provoking or harassing law enforcement officers or impeding their duties. That bill is the first bill filed ahead for the 2022 Legislative Session, which begins in January.
The bill would criminalize approaching a police officer after being warned not to if the offender does so with the intent to disrupt the officer’s duties. People would also break the law if they approached to harass or provoke a physical response from the officer.
The offense would apply to people approaching or remaining within 30 feet of an officer after receiving a warning.
Breaking the law would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine or up to 60 days in prison.
A person would break the law if they approached the officer or stood their ground with the intent to disrupt the officer’s duties, provoke a physical response from them or harass them.
The bill would take effect on Oct. 1, 2022.
Gov. Ron DeSantis this year signed legislation stiffening penalties against violent protesters, including those committing “mob intimidation.” The Governor and Republicans proposed that measure in September, after a summer of Black Lives Matter protests. However, they didn’t file it till the day of the U.S. Capitol riots.
The measure was one of the 2021 Session’s most contentious issues, with all Republicans but one — Sen. Jeff Brandes — supporting it and all Democrats opposed. In May, a coalition of groups, including the Florida branch of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit challenging the anti-riot bill for targeting speech protected under the First Amendment.
A bill prohibiting people from harassing police officers would likely draw similar First Amendment questions.
Before the Legislative Session begins on Jan. 11, the House and Senate will hold six weeks of committee meetings beginning in September. That period gives lawmakers a head start on priority legislation.
Together with Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, Rizo filed an identical version of HB 11 for the 2021 Session. That measure was never scheduled for a hearing. However, it received support from Fleming Island Rep. Sam Garrison, a fellow freshman Republican who is now in line to be House Speaker in 2026.