Since six officers in Dallas last Thursday were killed, legislators across the country are considering bills to offer hate crime protections to police officers. Though the bills intention’s are to ensure the safety of law enforcement, the legislation may have dire consequences for protesters and groups that are already targeted by cops.
Last month, Alderman Edward Burke (14th ward) proposed a similar bill here in Chicago. His bill would give harsher fines and penalties for offenses committed against current or past police officers, firefighters, as well as emergency responders.
In May, Louisiana became the first state to pass a so-called “Blue Lives Matter,” which expands the state’s hate crime protections to include emergency personnel and police. The bill goes into effect in three weeks and could be put to use rather quickly in Baton Rouge where there has been many protests since the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling.
One day after the shooting in Dallas, Rep. David Steffen (R-WI) introduced a bill he says will “protect those who protect us” in Wisconsin. The legislation is modeled after the law in Louisiana, and would impose “serious penalties” on anyone who targets cops, EMTs, and firefighters in the state.
“This legislation sends a clear message that the despicable attacks we’ve seen against officers throughout the country will not be tolerated in Wisconsin,” Steffen’s said in a prepared statement.
Following Steffen’s announcement, two Florida representatives–on of whom is Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala–announced a Blue Lives Matter bill in their home state as well.
“Law enforcement officers hold the fabric of our society together,” Baxley told The Tampa Bay Times. “An attack on them is an attack on our tradition of ordered liberty and we must do everything possible to hold individuals who do them harm accountable.”
Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-KY) introduced a similar bill in Kentucky one day before the Dallas shooting. Currently in Kentucky, attacking an officer is considered a capital offense. “‘Blue lives matter’ is what the title originally was for this bill and it doesn’t demean any other ‘lives matter,’” Bratcher said, adding, “I’m one of those that believe ‘all lives matter.’”
Bratcher also noted that the bill’s objective is to “increase the protection of emergency responders by increasing the severity of the punishment for the crime.”