The year 2020 will be remembered by most of us for the rest of our lives. A questionable presidential campaign and election season gave many doubts about our national electoral process. Covid-19 escaped Wuhan, China and spread around the globe. The national debt skyrocketed in response to the pandemic, which continues climbing to this day.
But the most disturbing memories for me were the months and months of riots and conflict in several of our large cities across the nation. Even Iowa experienced the pain of seeing riots at the Capitol and in other areas of Des Moines. The only thing standing between the rioters and major property damage to malls, houses, and our state Capitol was a thin blue line of law enforcement officers.
City police, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers all took part in stopping those who went beyond protesting and began threatening property damage, theft, and violence in each of these events. It was again made clear to me that the men and women who serve in our law enforcement agencies deserve the best legal support we can give them.
This session the Iowa Senate passed bills to support those who are put in dangerous situations, often without warning, and who must make split-second decisions that may be reviewed for years. SF 479 would deny state funding to cities that defund their police. This bill provides justifications for one-time expenditures, decreases in population, or other possible routine reductions in a law enforcement budget. Left-leaning, progressive cities have learned the hard way that trading cops for counselors in violent situations only leads to more violent crime.
Another bill, SF 476 codified a concept known as qualified immunity. This concept, initially established by the US Supreme Court, gives law enforcement officers certain legal protections as they work in completely uncontrolled and frequently dangerous environments. It does not give them total immunity to act with disregard for the law or behave in a punitive manner.
Finally, SF 534 addressed the violent riots in Iowa last year and in several other parts of the country. This bill covers a number of problems uncovered in last year’s riots. One specific issue this bill addressed was criminalizing the act of purposefully shining a laser pointer into the eyes of law enforcement officers, potentially seriously damaging their eyesight. This bill does not impede anyone’s First Amendment right to protest, but it does protect innocent Iowans whose lives, homes, or businesses are threatened or destroyed by rioters.
Supporting our law enforcement is crucial to keeping our communities safe and ensuring they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. These bills protect Iowans exercising their First Amendment right to protest, Iowa law enforcement officers doing job, and the community from property destruction.