3/12/12: Poloncarz Signs Cyberbullying Local Law

Modified: January 22, 2015 1:12pm

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Expresses Serious Doubts About Enforceability, Calls on Legislature to Work With Law Enforcement to Develop Enhanced Legislation

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz signed the cyberbullying measure (Local Law Intro. No. 10-2011) recently passed by the Erie County (“County”) Legislature into law.  However, in signing the law, Poloncarz expressed serious doubts regarding the enforceability of the law in its current form and called on the Legislature to work with local law enforcement officials to develop enhanced legislation.

In a letter to the Legislature, Poloncarz wrote, “Although I have serious doubts that this law can be adequately enforced in its current form, and it appears neither the District Attorney’s Office nor officials associated with the local judiciary were contacted regarding its enforceability during the drafting of the bill, vetoing this legislation would send the wrong message to our community.  Therefore, I will sign it into law but I am calling upon the architects of this local law to work with law enforcement agents, local schools, the District Attorney and the Family Court on this important subject so enhanced and enforceable legislation can be approved by your honorable body in the future.”

Specifically, Poloncarz noted that it may be difficult for law enforcement to press charges and the District Attorney’s Office to properly prosecute offenders because, in the vast majority of cyberbullying cases, it will be too difficult to prove who electronically disseminated the harassing statement without an admission of guilt or eyewitnesses.

Poloncarz added, “Although I hope this law will serve as a deterrent, I fear that this legislation will give victims false hope and will compound their suffering when law enforcement is unable to act.  Legislation that can be enforced needs to be approved if we are going to stop the most tragic results of cyberbullying.”

The Erie County Legislature adopted Erie County Local Law Intro. No. 10-2011, to Prohibit Cyberbullying in Erie County, on February 16, 2012.  This law intends to prohibit cyberbullying against any minor or student, making such violation a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to one year imprisonment.

In accordance with the Erie County Charter § 205, the county executive was required to hold a public hearing on the local law before considering whether to approve or disprove of it—which was held on Friday, March 2, 2012. 

Letter Submitted to Erie County Legislature in Signing Cyberbullying Law Attached