City IndexWhat are the penalties for assaulting a cop in cities around the world?
This week in City Index, we examine the consequences of attacking a police officer and resisting arrest.
As of this date, over 600 people have been killed at the hands of the police in the United States. As a result of increasing violence, the national opinion of police conduct has plummeted. A survey commissioned by USA Today last year found that 65% of the population believed that police departments “do an ‘only fair’ or a poor job in holding officers accountable” for misconduct. In the wake of a series of deaths of unarmed African-American men and women at the hands of the police or while in police custody, there is a palpable sense of disillusionment towards the police forces in the United States.
We chose 8 CITIES across the globe from Toronto to Tokyo to retrieve our data
The suspicious death of Sandra Bland while in custody at the Waller County and execution of Samuel DuBose—both of whom were pulled over for minor traffic violations and were claimed to have “resisted” arrest—resulted in unrest witnessed in the form of nationwide protests. After the verdict to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of fatal choking of Eric Garner was passed down, thousands took to the streets of New York and shut down major streets, highways, and bridges. The murder of Freddie Gray by police and the police shooting of Michael Brown had sparked protests centering in Baltimore and Ferguson, respectively, and spreading across the country.
According to NPR, since the death of Eric Garner by the hands of the NYPD, top ranking police officials have moved to increase the punishment for resisting arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Officers claim that there is no legitimate threat of punishment for resisting arrest, which leads to a high number of resisting cases and, as a result, more violence. This mimics a response that is consistently hurled around to justify police officers’ actions, that the deaths and injuries could have been avoided had they not resisted. However, a report conducted by WNYC showed that only 15% of total officers accounted for a majority of resisting arrest cases in New York City, where it is believed that the charges were used to “cover” the use of excessive force.
It is clear that both police violence and unrest are a growing concern, but how does America stack up to the rest of the world? In order to put the NYPD’s belief that harsher punishment would reduce violence into context, we looked at the punishment for resisting and assaulting a police officer charges in 8 cities across the world.
Police stats: US
In the last ten years, over 4,200 people have died in police custody in Texas.
In the United States, black people are almost six times more likely to be arrested and jailed than white people.
Police stats: ELSEWHERE
Since 2011, only three people have been killed by police officers in the UK.
A 2014 study by The Economist shows that Japan had zero Police Shooting-related deaths in 2013.
While the conviction rate of resisting charges is staggeringly low, defendants could serve up to a year jail sentence.
However, if an officer is injured during the course of the arrest (even if it is a minor injury), the charge could get bumped up to a Class C Felony with a sentence of up to 15 years. A Class C Felony does not require the need to prove intention to inflict harm. If an officer is seriously injured, the charge could be raised to a Class B Felony, with a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
Italy has had a torrid, prolonged history of political corruption and unrest. Acts of resistance and/or violence against police officials are considered a serious offense, most of the time resulting in felony sentences. While there are less gun-related deaths at the hands of police officers, officers are believed to be quick to use violence. Some cases can often result in light sentences, but Italian penal code dictates that the aggravated assault charge is punishable by a 3-10 year sentence, with no more than a 5 year sentence for acts deemed “unintentional.”
Punishment for Insult of a Representative of the Authority (Aticle 319) ranges between wage-adjusted fines and 120-180 hours of "compulsory works" to "a corrective labour for a term of six to twelve months." Use of Violence Against a Representative of the Authority (Articles 318) that is "endangering the lives or health" of the officer is punishable by a term of five to ten years; punishment for use of violence "not endangering the lives or health" of the officer, including "threats", still ranges from wage-adjusted fines to a term of up to five years. A more severe version is Encroachment on the Life of an Officer of a Law-enforcement Agency (Article 317) and is punishable with a term of twelve to twenty years, or by capital punishment or life imprisonment.
Articles 318 and 319 give police a lot of leverage during the arrests and citizens, and the consequences of altercations with the police are unforseen in day-to-day interractions. A known example of this abuse of power is the lemon incident, when Maxim Luzyanin, while participating in a Bolotnaya protest ("March of Millions"), allegedly a “mass riot”, threw a lemon at and reportedly chipped a tooth of an OMON officer in full riot gear (actual charges claim it to be a rock, but video evidence suggested otherwise). Luzyanin recieved 4.5 years in prison per article 318, Use of Violence Against a Representative of the Authority.
In Toronto, resisting arrest is predicated on the proof that the arrest was legal. If unlawful, Canadian law protects a citizen’s right to protect themselves using ‘reasonable’ means. What is, however, considered reasonable? In one landmark case, 24-year old Jarron Alexander was not convicted of resisting arrest, even after tearing off a board from a fence and swinging it at a pursuing officer. Ontario Superior Court Justice Alison Harvison Young ruled that because the search, which prompted Alexander’s escape, was unlawful that, “unarmed and faced with an armed police officer, Mr. Alexander acted in self-defence [sic]…[and] was legally justified in doing so.” If convicted, however, of assault on a police officer the maximum sentence is up to five years in prison.
According to the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran there is not a specific charge for assault on a police officer. For assault cases resulting in bodily damage, the defendant faces a sentence of 2 to 5 years, while crimes that do not result in damage result in a sentence of 3 months to 1 year. When injury is inflicted, Iranian law does account for punishment in the form of qisas (an “eye for an eye” retaliation) and/or diyya (financial retribution). The Penal Code does specify that “resisting police forces” is non-punishable if “there is a fear that their acts will cause death or injury or assault to [someone’s] honor or property.”
The charge for assaulting a police officer according to Israeli Penal Code is punishable by a range of 1 month to 5 years (depending on the intention) imprisonment. However, while this would uphold for Israeli citizens, East Jerusalem is home to over 300,000 Palestinians who do not receive equal treatment.
*for Israelis, Indeterminable for Palestinians.
Japan has been often been criticized for its strict penal system. While the country made reforms in 2006, skeptical eyes worldwide still believed the effort to be too light. According to an article on The Japan Times, people arrested for crimes are automatically believed to be guilty. In other words, they put complete trust in the arresting officer’s word. With the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ adage in place, citizens of Tokyo who engage in acts of violence against the police — provoked or not — can expect to serve a sentence, but, according to Japanese Penal Code, imprisonment cannot exceed 3 years.
In the UK, cases of resisting arrest/assaulting a police officer are assessed on the basis of both party’s conduct. Charges may be dropped if the officer’s actions are considered excessive. Since it is rare for a British police officer to carry a gun, the typical response to resisting is a moderate use of force, like a knee to the back before being hauled off and charged. If convicted, the maximum sentence is only 6 months.
Cover Image via shutterstock.com