Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado has introduced legislation that would make the targeted killing of a police officer a federal hate crime.
Similar legislation has been introduced on the state level in the Louisiana and Maryland legislatures.
Rashad Turner, the leader of the Black Lives Matter chapter in St. Paul, Minn., told the Star Tribune in October 2015 that “law enforcement wanted to make themselves out to be the victims” when the Red Wing, Minn., City Council called for an expansion of the federal hate crimes law to include killing police.
In response, James Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police Legislative Advocacy Center, told PJM Turner was correct.
“Well, when people are ambushed and killed for no other reason than because they are police officers, they are victims,” Pasco said.
Rep. Buck, who worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice, the Colorado Department of Justice and as a county district attorney in Colorado, agreed with Pasco’s way of thinking.
“I’ve seen over and over both police officers on the street and federal agents, jail deputies and Bureau of Prison officials being threatened by very dangerous people,” Buck told the Greeley Tribune.
“I have a passion for trying to protect those who protect us. That’s what this bill is about,” he added.
Buck said the legislation would work just like other hate crimes laws. It would allow prosecutors to bring extra charges against people who are accused of targeting victims for violent crime because of their background.
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, supported Buck’s legislation when it was introduced in March.
“Talking heads on television and inflammatory rhetoric on social media are inciting acts of hatred and violence toward our nation’s peace officers,” Canterbury said in a statement. “Our members are increasingly coming under fire by individuals motivated by nothing more than a desire to kill or injure a cop. Enough is enough.”
Buck can’t imagine much opposition to his Blue Lives Matter proposal in Congress.
“I haven’t walked down the Democrat aisle yet,” Buck said. “We’ll see. I can’t imagine anyone would be opposed to protecting police officers.”
“There’s just too many police officers being killed in the line of duty. There’s no sense in it,” Dionna Nelson, whose father was a police officer in Acadiana, La., told KLFY-TV.
“You never know if he’s coming home,” she said.
Rep. Lance Harris’ (R) Blue Lives Matter legislation in Louisiana would add five years in prison to the sentences of anyone convicted of an assault against a law enforcement officer or a firefighter.
Harris cited the December 2014 killings of two NYPD officers — which Mayor Bill de Blasio called “assassinations” — in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island as the motivation for his legislation.
Even though Buck may not see many who would speak out against his bill in Congress, Harris is encountering people who are opposed to his proposal in Louisiana.
Besides the fact people convicted of assaulting police officers already face enhanced penalties under current Louisiana law, Allison Goodman, a regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in Louisiana, told the Advocate hate crime legislation was never intended to protect police officers.
She said the concept just doesn’t work, legally.
“Proving the bias intent for a hate crime for law enforcement or first responders is very different than proving it for someone who is Jewish or gay or black,” she said.
“It’s really to protect police,” Republican Delegate Steven Arentz told WBAL-TV in Baltimore when he introduced Blue Lives Matter legislation in Maryland this February.
As with Buck’s expansion of the federal hate crime statute and Harris’ proposal in Louisiana, Arentz would expand Maryland’s hate crime law to cover police and firefighters.
“I believe the biggest thing it will do is it will be another level of awareness to say, ‘these are good people. They (police) are not criminals,’” he added.
As in Louisiana, those opposed to Blue Lives Matter legislation in Maryland said it is the product of unsubstantiated claims of a war against police officers.
“There’s no sense that we have that there is a problem with people attacking police officers because they are police officers,” Baltimore City Delegate Curt Anderson said.
WBAL-TV reported assaults against police officers in Maryland dropped 37 percent between 2009 and 2014. FBI statistics showed assaults against law enforcement officers, nationwide, declined 17 percent during those years.
“This bill is a distraction,” said Sara Love, a lobbyist for the Maryland ACLU. “Let’s look at the real problem of what’s going on in Maryland and what Marylanders need to talk about.
“It’s the videos that are coming out about unconstitutional, biased policing,” Love said. “Let’s talk about law enforcement officers not being held accountable for their behavior.”
During the Red Wing City Council debate over expanding federal hate crimes laws to including police, Peggy Rehder, the council’s vice president, said she didn’t see the difference.
“It seems that anyone wearing a blue uniform has become a target in the minds of a lot of people — a target not because of what they’re doing, but a target because of who they are, which for me really kind of moves it into the hate crimes area,” Rehder said.
“It’s not the color of their skin, but the color of their uniform.”
Join the conversation as a VIP Member