Blue Lives Matter Bill Signed In Louisiana, Reclassifies Crimes Against Cops As Hate Crimes

In a first-in-the-nation move, Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards has signed a Blue Lives Matter bill into law in the state. The bill, a direct response to the discord between the Black Lives Matter movement and police, would make targeting police officers, EMS workers, and firefighters hate crimes. The bill was signed Thursday, May 26, and is an expansion of the state’s current hate crime statute, reports CNN.

“Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, I have great respect for the work that they do and the risks they take to ensure our safety. They deserve every protection that we can give them.”‘

Before the new Blue Loves Matter bill, hate crime laws in Louisiana (and around the country) protected those targeted for their “identity-based” characteristics, such as religion, race, gender, ethnicity, and, in some areas, their sexual orientation and gender identification. The Blue Lives Matter bill in Louisiana will mean that criminals who target police officers based upon their profession would have additional penalties added to their sentence upon conviction.

Ultimately, in Louisiana, the Blue Lives Matter bill could result in an additional five years in prison (with hard labor) and up to $5,000 in additional fines for felonies like murder, rape, battery, and assault. For misdemeanor offenses, the Blue Lives Matter bill could add six months of incarceration and up to $500 in fines.

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Louisiana’s decision to create a Blue Lives Matter bill and add a person’s chosen career to the list of hate crime statuses has rubbed some opponents the wrong way, including Allison Padilla-Goodman of the Anti-Defamation League.

“Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable.”

Padilla-Goodman and other opponents of the Blue Lives Matter bill say that while they support additional penalties for crimes against police officers, they don’t feel that it’s appropriate for someone’s occupation to elevate crimes against them to “hate crime” status. According to Padilla-Goodman, the Blue Lives Matter bill “weakens the impact of the Hate Crimes Act” because it adds additional classes of people who may be better served by protection under other laws and legislation.

When it comes to the Blue Lives Matter Bill, her organization is “not happy” that it was signed into law. Social media responses to the new legislation were mixed.

Louisiana’s Blue Lives Matter bill was inspired by the deadly ambush of a Texas police officer in August 2015. Darren Goforth lost his life in that shooting after he was assassinated in uniform. It was that attack, seemingly motivated by Goforth’s occupation as a police officer, that prompted Louisiana Representative Lance Harris to draft the Blue Lives Matter bill, officially known as House Bill 953.

“It looked like it was strictly done because someone didn’t like police officers, like a hate crime.”

Representative Harris added that he included other first responders in the Blue Lives Matter bill because the existing law is already broad, covering a wide array of potential victims. According to Harris, this new Blue Lives Matter bill is necessary because police officers and other first responders are being targeted strictly “out of hate” for their uniforms.

“For those individuals who choose to target our heroes, the message formalized in this legislative act should be clear and the consequences severe.”

Blue Lives Protest

Blue Lives Matter — the national organization, not the new bill — has responded to the Louisiana legislation, and their spokesman, Randy Sutton, a former cop from Las Vegas, says the legislation is welcome and “important.” According to Sutton, he already classifies police officers as a minority group and that it is only “very rarely” that a first-time offender targets cops.

“[The Blue Lives Matter bill is] important because symbolically it advises that there is a value to the lives of police officers. When you give value, it acts as a deterrent in one sense, but it also is a tool to add extra punishment for the assaults and the crimes against them.”

As the Washington Post reports, the New Orleans chapter of Black Lives Matter did not support the bill, which sailed through the Louisiana legislative process with ease, calling on it to be vetoed.

“By treating the police as specialized citizens held above criticism and the laws they are charged to enforce, we lose our ability to exercise our First Amendment right. Including ‘police’ as a protected class in hate crime legislation would serve to provide more protection to an institution that is statistically proven to be racist in action, policy, and impact.”

Prior to the Blue Lives Matter bill, police in Louisiana had shot and killed 27 people in the state, two of them unarmed, in 2015. In 2016, Louisiana police have already shot and killed seven people.

In contrast, in 2015, Louisiana had nine officer “fatalities” in 2015 and zero so far in 2016.

What do you think? Is the Blue Lives Matter bill necessary and appropriate legislation, or does the Blue Lives Matter bill muddy what it means to be a “hate crime”?

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