Des Moines, IA – The Iowa State Legislature passed the “Back the Blue” bill on Tuesday, sending the measure on to the governor for her signature.
The Iowa Senate voted 27-18 in favor of Senate File 342 on Monday after making some alterations, KWWL reported.
The Iowa House voted to accept those changes the following day.
The bill will now head to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for her signature, KWWL reported.
Under the new law, rioting will be bumped up to a felony-level offense, and participating in an unlawful assembly will become an aggravated misdemeanor.
“We saw a lot of rioting in the last year, and I don’t think it’s okay to go out and damage property, both private or public, and there needs to be consequences,” said Senator Chris Cournoyer (R-LeClaire), according to The Gazette. “If enhancing the penalty for that crime helps deter that crime, then I think that’s appropriate.”
Drivers who unintentionally run into rioters who are blocking roadways will have protections under the bill, KCRG reported.
The measure also increases the burden of proof necessary to hold law enforcement officers liable for lawsuits, KWWL reported.
Previously, law enforcement agencies were required to prove an officer was exercising “all due care” during an interaction with a member of the public in order for that officer to be shielded from a lawsuit, according to the news outlet.
Under the new law, a plaintiff would have to prove that “every reasonable officer” would have been well aware they were in violation of a clearly-defined law in order for an officer to lose their qualified immunity protections, KWWL reported.
The primary goals of the “Back the Blue” bill are to make sure police have the tools they need to keep communities safe and to also show law enforcement that the communities support them, Representative Jared Klein (R-Washington) told KWWL.
“Peaceful is great, but when it gets to the point where there’s defacing of public property, violence…that is not peaceful. That’s violent, and that we cannot tolerate,” Klein said.
Opponents of the bill, such as the Advocates for Social Justice in Cedar Rapids, have labeled the law change as “racist,” KWWL reported.
They claim people of color are disproportionately subjected to police brutality, and that the law change will make it more difficult for them to seek justice.
Citizens for Community Improvement policy director Adam Mason said the law is “clearly an attack on protesters with the statewide movement for Black liberation, who protested for months to demand racial justice and true public safety,” The Gazette reported.