Police officers in Indiana are speaking out against a new law that gives citizens the right to use deadly force to protect themselves against a public servant who oversteps his authority. Tim Downs, president of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, says the law (signed in March by Gov. Mitch Daniels, but only now getting national attention) might give people the impression that they can shoot police with impunity. "It's just a recipe for disaster," he tells Bloomberg. Here, a brief guide to this controversial legislation:
What exactly does the law say?
It authorizes people to protect themselves or their property by using deadly force in response to "unlawful intrusion" by a "public servant." The measure is essentially just a public-servant-specific amendment to the state's 2006 so-called Castle Doctrine bill, which allows people to do whatever they have to to stop someone from illegally entering a home or car. Indiana is reportedly the first state to specifically allow the use of force against police. The new rule was passed with a nudge from the National Rifle Association, which has pushed permissive gun laws around the country.
Why did Indiana push this law?
The state Supreme Court had previously ruled that citizens had no legal right to resist police officers, even in a case of unlawful entry. So before this new law was passed, explains Republican state Sen. Michael Young, people had no legal right to protect themselves from abuse at the hands of authorities. Indeed, he says, a homeowner could do nothing in the hypothetical case in which he returned home to find a police officer raping his wife — other than filing a lawsuit later.
Is this really necessary?
Not according to law enforcement officials, who lobbied against the bill. They say it's wholly unnecessary, as Indiana was not exactly being marauded by rogue cops. And now, anyone who's drunk or distraught might think he has a legal right to shoot a police officer in a dispute. "It just puts a bounty on our heads," Downs tells Bloomberg. Sergeant Joseph Hubbard, for one, says he now worries that every time he pulls over a car, the driver might shoot him and cite the law as justification. "Somebody is going get away with killing a cop because of this law."