Indiana Police Express Concern Over ‘Right to Resist Police’ Law

In late March, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed SB1, the ‘Right to Resist Police’ bill, into law, which allows citizens to use force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect themselves, someone else or their own property from unlawful actions by a public servant.

Since its passage, the law has been widely criticized.  But no criticism of the law has been more poignant than that coming from those Indiana residents who’ve taken an oath to “serve and protect.”

Sergeant Joseph Hubbard, a 17-year veteran of the Jeffersonville Police Department, told Bloomberg News that the law sends the wrong message to the public.

“If I pull over a car and I walk up to it and the guy shoots me, he’s going to say, ‘Well, he was trying to illegally enter my property,’” said Hubbard, 40, who is president of Jeffersonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 100. “Somebody is going get away with killing a cop because of this law.”

Hubbard added that the law makes him second-guess himself, not something an officer wants to have happen when he works on the department’s patrol division, which servers “thousand” of warrants a year.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels“It puts doubt in your mind,” said Hubbard, a former United States Marine. “And hesitation in our job can mean somebody gets hurt or killed.”

Hubbard admitted that the NRA-backed law hasn’t changed his approach to the job.  Moreover, he hasn’t noticed a difference in the way civilians he encounters are behaving.

But it did give him pause to rethink his NRA membership.

He told Bloomberg News that he has been “a proud member of the NRA for years,” and while he’s still a member and NRA firearms instructor, “the day I found out the NRA was pushing behind this bill was the day I became a not-so-happy NRA member.”

But others weren’t so forgiving of the NRA.  Tim Downs, the chief of the Lake County Police in northwest Indiana, canceled his NRA membership.

He told Bloomberg News that the law did not need to be changed because there isn’t an epidemic of rogue police in Indiana.

“It’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Downs, who is also the president of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police.  “It just puts a bounty on our heads.”

To some extent, the NRA saw this fallout coming.  And to its credit, it has taken steps to dispel rumors about the new law and educate both the public and law enforcement on how it essentially restores a fundamental aspect of Common Law that was infringed – self defense within the home — following a state Supreme Court ruling last year that said Indiana residents have “no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers” (it’s known as the Barnes decision).

For further clarification, see the NRA’s Myth vs. Fact breakdown of SB 1 below:

SB 1: Myth vs. Fact

Myth: SB 1 “allows homeowners to shoot and kill police officers they believe are unlawfully on their property or in their homes.”

Fact: Under SB 1, only the use of “reasonable force” is justified to prevent what a person “reasonably believes” is an unlawful entry by an officer. To be “reasonable,” defensive force must be proportional to the reasonably perceived threat. SB 1 makes clear that deadly force against an officer is only authorized if the person reasonably believes not just that the officer is acting unlawfully but that the force is “reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury.” The reasonableness of the force would be determined by the jury, not merely by what the person using force claimed he or she believed at the time. Most important, deadly force would not be justified merely to prevent an officer from entering a home, no matter how unlawfully.

Myth: “[I]f a police officer is walking by a home and a woman screams because her husband is beating her mercilessly, there isn‟t time to wait for a court approved warrant to enter the home. Under Senate Bill 1 … the husband could shoot and kill the officer for entering his home and get away with it.”

Fact: This ignores the plain language of SB 1, which makes clear that “a person is not justified in using force against a law enforcement officer if … the person is committing or is escaping after the commission of a crime.” Even if this exception were not in the bill, a reasonable person (who by definition knows and follows the law and behaves prudently) would know that in exigent circumstances, such as stopping an ongoing, unlawful physical attack, an officer may enter a home lawfully a warrant.

Myth: SB 1 will “give paranoid gun toting anti-government nut jobs the legal ability to shoot any officer that steps in their home or on their property.”

NRA logoFact: Under SB 1, a person would only be justified in using any force against an officer if he reasonably believes the use of force is necessary to prevent an unlawful trespass. Any kind of paranoia is (by definition) unreasonable, and paranoid actions would not entitle a person who uses force to claim self-defense under SB 1. Also, even if force is justified, the level of force must be reasonable. Again, Indiana law does not allow the use of deadly force to prevent simple trespass, and SB 1 only allows deadly force if it is reasonably believed to be necessary both to prevent an unlawful entry and to prevent serious bodily injury.

Myth: SB 1 “allows those who commit a crime to have a safe haven from police officers who pursue them. All a criminal needs to do is run home to legally resist arrest.”

Fact: This is totally false. Even if every other standard for the use of force is otherwise met, SB 1 specifically excludes any justification for use of force against an officer “if the person is committing or is escaping after the commission of a crime.”

Myth: SB 1 “would create an open season on law enforcement.”

Fact: SB 1 would return Indiana to the law that existed before the 2011 Barnes decision. No reasonable person thinks that the pre-Barnes law, similar to the law in many other states, posed any unusual threat to officers. To our knowledge, no group now criticizing SB 1 was seeking a repeal of the pre-Barnes law. Even the government‟s lawyers in the Barnes case itself never asked the Supreme Court for such a sweeping change in the law.

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