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Monroe County Legislature Wipes Out Anti-Harassment Law

Patti Singer

Republican Legislator Karla Boyce talks in February 2020 about repeal of the anti-harrassment law. Legislators John Baynes and Ernest Flagler-Mitchell were among the Democrats who joined her at a news conference. File photo

A controversial law aimed at protecting police — which police said they wouldn’t enforce — is no more.

The Monroe County Legislature repealed the anti-harassment legislation by voice vote at the April 14 meeting. There was no dissent.

“This legislation was misguided, flawed, and unconstitutional from the beginning,” Democratic Minority Leader Vincent Felder said after the bill was repealed. “While it is shameful the Republican majority rammed it through last fall over the community’s outcry, I am relieved we were able to repeal it tonight before any lasting damage was done to our community.”

The bill had been passed in November along party lines. Outgoing County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo signed it into law Dec. 2, just hours after 36 people had spoken against it at a public hearing not attended by any members of the Republican majority.

Opponents said the language of “Prohibited Harassment of a Police Officer, Peace Officer or First Responder in Monroe County” was vague and they feared it would be applied unfairly and affect mostly people of color.

Police agencies throughout Monroe County said they would not enforce the law and that state penal code already protected them while performing their official duties. So, having local anti-harassment law on the books meant it still could be applied.

Now, that is gone.

In February, Republican Legislator Karla Boyce, who led the effort to pass the law, announced a bipartisan effort for its repeal. At that time, Boyce said she hearing from people who were concerned about the potential consequences to citizens who were voicing their First Amendment rights to free speech.

Felder and Ernest Flagler-Mitchell also had conversations with Boyce, who shortly afterward announced she is running for Monroe County Clerk.

Before the vote on April 14, Legislator Sabrina LaMar said, “We have to continue to fight for the rights of all people and do a good job to make sure we are not perpetuating any biases against any community.”

Flagler-Mitchell said the law had the potential to disproportionately affect people of color because they may deal with public safety officers more than suburban communities. He thanked Boyce for her efforts in repealing the bill.

Boyce said it was never her intent to hurt anyone in the community. “I would like to thank Legislator Felder and Legislator Flagler-Mitchell for their team spirit in working together to repeal this law.”