Support for Self-Protection and Law Enforcement
Our federal constitution gives citizens the right to life—consequently we have the right to protect ourselves.
South Dakota has passed Constitutional Carry and Stand Your Ground laws—these state laws confirm the rights to self-protection that are given in our federal constitution.
South Dakota needs another law that affords similar protections to police for when they are acting in the line of duty.
The person most responsible for your personal protection is you. In the past three years South Dakota has passed a Constitutional Carry law and a Stand Your Ground law. Both of these laws provide individuals legal protections when they act to defend themselves. The Police do not have the responsibility to protect individual citizens. They do have the responsibility to enforce the law. If they are able to efficiently do that then law-abiding citizens will be safer. In recent years there have been well publicized incidents where police have been indicted for use of excessive force when interacting with suspects. At times these suspects were both not obeying lawful orders and acting in a manner that could be viewed as threatening. Police should have legal protections from criminal indictments when they use force in situations as just described. As a legislator I would work to pass a law that would provide them with such protections.
The entity most responsible for your protection is you. Police enforce the law. They will try to assist you if they are present when you are being victimized by criminals. However, they are not responsible for your individual protection--you are the one most responsible for that.
In the past three years the South Dakota state legislature has passed two bills, signed into law by governor Kristi Noem, which significantly increase our rights to defend ourselves. In 2019 South Dakota enacted Constitutional Carry (https://bearingarms.com/tomknighton/2019/07/08/south-dakota-joins-constitutional-carry-club-n34655). With this law citizens of South Dakota can purchase a gun, place it in a pocket, out of sight, and legally carry it most anywhere in the State. There is no need to get a government approved concealed-carry permit. This law essentially inserts the rights, given to American citizens by the 2nd amendment of the federal constitution, into South Dakota state law. The right to carry a gun gives South Dakotans a strong means of providing for their self-protection.
In 2021 a “Stand Your Ground” law was passed by the state legislature and again signed into law by governor Noem (https://www.keloland.com/keloland-com-original/stand-your-ground-bill-becomes-law-with-stroke-of-governors-pen/). One of the things this law essentially says is that if you are being threatened, and an assailant is advancing toward you in a threatening way, then you may use deadly force in defense without first having attempted to flee. The law says, under these circumstances, you are entitled to invoke a plea of self-defense should any criminal charges be filed against you as a result of your actions to defend yourself. The reasonableness of this law seems self-evident. This law makes it clear that South Dakotans have the legal right to defend themselves against criminal threats and attacks.
I believe South Dakota needs at least one more law similar to these two. We should have a state law that protects police from criminal charges that may arise from actions that they take in the line-of-duty. Confronting and arresting criminals is a difficult and dangerous task. At times suspected criminals resist lawful orders. Furthermore, in addition to ignoring orders, at times suspects will take actions that or either clearly intended to harm police or could reasonably be viewed as such. In situations such as this, the police should not be held criminally responsible for actions that they take in response to the threats. This is true even if later investigations show that the threats were not as they seemed.
Police work is difficult and dangerous. It is unfair and makes no sense to add to these difficulties by making criminal indictments against police for taking actions to protect themselves, or citizens, during the process of enforcing laws. The law should protect police from criminal charges in situations where they are doing their duty and a suspect is not obeying lawful orders and is behaving in a way that appears to be threatening.
Police are not directly responsible for providing citizens with personal protection. Nevertheless in performing their routine law-enforcement actions they strongly influence the general threat level for crimes in a community. By passing a law that gives police legal protections to defend themselves when seemingly threatened, they will be more willing to enforce laws and make arrests. This will reduce criminal activity in communities and make life safer for all law-abiding residents.
As a state legislator I would work to pass a law that would effectively raise the bar for charging Police for any kind of misconduct against a suspect when that suspect does not obey a lawful order from the Officer and acts in a way that could be reasonably judged as threatening. Doing this will give Police legal protections that they should have. It will also result in reduced threats from criminal activity in the community due to more effective law enforcement.