Momentum to Make Cop-Killing a Hate Crime

     BATON ROUGE (CN) – Louisiana is considering expanding its hate crime law to cover police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical crews.
     If Gov. John Bel Edwards signs the law in, it will allow prosecutors to seek additional penalties against anyone convicted of intentionally targeting police, firefighters and emergency medical crews because of their professional affiliation.
     The state House and Senate both gave enthusiastic support to the bill.
     Bills similar to this one, called Blue Lives Matter bills, have been proposed in at least five other states, but none has yet passed.
     Opponents of the bills worry the bills are unnecessary and would undermine other hate-crime statutes.
     The Anti-Defamation League is one such opponent to the bill. The league wrote Governor Edwards asking for his veto on the grounds that people convicted of violence toward police officers already face increased fines in many states, including Louisiana. according to a story by the Associated Press.
     Following the 2014 police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter movement garnered much national attention, and raised the issue of police reform nationwide.
     The legislation to strengthen police protection was introduced in Louisiana following a string of high-profile attacks on cops.
     Latoya Lewis, co-chair of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, told the AP a bill to include cops under hate-crime protection would dampen the Black Lives Matter movement.
     “Supporting this bill puts the broader community on a back burner in Louisiana,” she 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.”
     Statistics don’t support a change in law, Lewis said. Thousands more people were killed by police last year than officers killed in the line of duty during the same period, according to her statistics. While supporters of the legislation contend police are targeted because of their uniforms, Lewis said in the AP story that officers “are not born a certain way. They choose it, and the uniform they wear comes with a lot of protection.”
     Under the Louisiana measure, people convicted of felony hate crimes singling out police or other first responders would face an additional five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. In misdemeanor cases, penalties could increase by $500 or up to six months in prison.

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