DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa House has passed a “Back the Blue” bill, with some big changes made beforehand.
The original language of the bill would make it illegal for the state or counties to fire or discipline law enforcement officers if prosecutors determine the officer is withholding important evidence that could exonerate a defendant.
However, Republicans amended it to include several other measures including felony charges for protestors who break the law or assault officers and making it a serious misdemeanor to block streets or sidewalks.
The bill also defines rioting as three or more people assembling in a violent or disturbing manner and says causing harm to a person or property damage while rioting could be a Class D felony.
The last big section gives law enforcement qualified immunity, which is essentially more legal protections for officers.
“I really don’t think that the qualified immunity in this form, I don’t think this protects bad cops,” said Rep. Jon Thorup, Republican lawmaker from Knoxville and current member of the Iowa State Patrol. “Attorneys and judges have hours. Weeks, months to decide if what we did was right or wrong. We only have a few seconds, so if we could just get a little more protection.”
Those against the bill say there was no bipartisan discussion.
“I have to vote no because we reacted, instead of us discussing and putting together a bill like a more perfect union. We talked. We didn’t agree with everything but we talked. When are we gonna start talking together when we decide to craft laws that affect this state,” questioned Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines.
The bill now moves on to the Republican-controlled Senate.