Louisiana may become the first state in the nation to pass a police hate crime law. House Bill 953, dubbed the Blue Lives Matter bill, would make threatening or harming a law enforcement officer a hate crime.
The Louisiana police hate crime legislation passed both the state house and senate with little opposition, NOLA.com reports. Lawmakers in the house passed the Blue Lives Matter bill by a vote of 91 to zero. In the state senate, the bill passed by a 33 to three margin.
The police hate crime bill now sits on the desk of Louisiana Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards and awaits his signature. Some Black Lives Matter activists have spoken out vehemently against the legislation. Governor Edwards’ brother, father, and grandfather all served their communities as sheriffs. He is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the week. The measure also protects other first responders who are threatened or attacked due to their chosen profession.
Louisiana poised to make targeting police a hate crime with “Blue Lives Matter” bill https://t.co/vQAR9bdSWQ
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 24, 2016
Hate crime statutes that invoke more stringent prison sentences and steeper fines already exist in many states, but none relate to threats or harm against police officers — until now. Hate crime laws currently offer enhanced punishment for individuals threatened, discriminated against, injured, or killed if they were targeted due to their sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, nationality, or affiliation with specific organizations, ABC News notes.
Public servants in five states have attempted to pass similar versions of Louisiana’s police hate crime Blue Lives Matter bill but have failed. Opponents to such measures have claimed the creation of new laws to protect the police are unnecessary and could actually weaken existing hate crime statutes.
Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman is among those opposed to the enhanced protections for police officers. Padilla-Goodman said those convicted of assaulting law enforcement officers are already subjected to increased penalties in some states and are prosecuted vigorously under existing Louisiana law.
— FOX25 News Boston (@fox25news) May 25, 2016
Louisiana lawmakers decided to author the Blue Lives Matter bill after a series of high-profile assaults on police officers in the country. Republican Representative Lance Harris sponsored the bill. Harris cited the Houston case where one deputy was shot 15 times during an ambush last August among the motivating factors behind his proposed legislation.
“This gives more of a deterrent for people just to pick out a law officer because he’s a law officer and attack him,” Representative Harris said.
Black Youth Project 100 New Orleans Chapter Co-Chair Latoya Lewis feels police hate crime statistics do not support the need for the Blue Lives Matter law. She also feels if Governor Edwards signs the legislation into law, he is making a comment about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Supporting this bill puts the broader community on a back burner in Louisiana,” Latoya Harris said. “This would not be a positive reaction to our cries, but only show how much power there is against the people trying to stop the harassing and murder in the streets by police. [Police officers] are not born a certain way. They choose it, and the uniform they wear comes with a lot of protection.”
If Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards does sign the law as anticipated, individuals convicted on Blue Lives Matter hate crimes would face an additional five yeas in prison and up to a $5,000 fine on felony charges. If found guilty of misdemeanor hate crimes, the offenders would face up to an additional six months in prison and another $500 in fines.
The Louisiana police hate crimes law has prompted heated debate on social media.
— Sgt. Freefall (@AP_SgtFreefall) May 25, 2016
A Blue Lives Matter Act has been proposed in Congress. Colorado Republican Ken Buck sponsored the bill, which is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police. If passed, the federal hate crime statute would add enhanced protection for law enforcement officers who work in states where hate crime laws do not offer them additional protection.
What do you think about the Louisiana police hate crime Blue Lives Matter bill?
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