Police in Indiana are up in arms – and for good reason. A new law signed in March by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels will allow residents to use deadly force against police officers and other civil servants who unlawfully come into their homes.
As the first of its kind in the United States, and police officers are worrying about its implications. As Sergeant Joseph Hubbard, a 17 year veteran of the Police Department in Jeffersonville, Indiana said,
“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. Somebody is going get away with killing a cop because of this law.”
The National Rifle Association was at the forefront of pushing for the law. They argued that it would allow homeowners to defend themselves on their own property and that it was necessary after a state Supreme Court case last year ruled that there was “no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”
The actual law allows force in order to
“protect the person or a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful force.”
The bill’s author, Republican State Sen. R. Michael Young defends the law by explaining that no cases have occurred where anyone has used the law to hurt police officers.
While the nuance of the law tries to protect officers and to make it difficult to actually justify using force against them, the message has been sent. The law outlines that force can only be used if the person can “reasonably believe” that an officer is acting illegally and that the force needs to be used to prevent “serious bodily injury.”
Daniels explained that, “In the real world, there will almost never be a situation in which these extremely narrow conditions are met. This law is not an invitation to use violence or force against law enforcement officers.”
State Sen. Tim Lanane, the assistant Democratic leader and an attorney, disagrees. As he said, “It’s a risky proposition that we set up here.”
Tim Downs, chief of the Lake County police in northwest Indiana, agrees. As he said,
“It’s just a recipe for disaster. It just puts a bounty on our heads.”