Since the beginning of the year, there have been 32 bills introduced in 14 states proposing that members of law enforcement be included in hate crime protections, the same type of protections granted to people of color, religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community, according to an analysis of state legislatures.
The Huffington Post, which conducted the analysis, says that “the wave of legislation, which classifies violent attacks on police as hate crimes, exposes an appetite to provide political sanctuary to an already protected class.”
Louisiana was the first state to pass a “Blue Lives Matter” bill last year, and it was followed by Mississippi, whose state Senate advanced a similar bill on Jan. 26. The Kentucky House of Representatives pushed forward its own version on Feb. 13.
The Huffington Post notes that most of the bills were not successful; there were at least 20 bills introduced over the last year that died either by vote or after being referred to a state legislative committee, and there are 22 currently sitting in a committee for review.
From the Huffington Post:
The wave of legislation exposes an appetite to provide political sanctuary to an already protected class. Including police officers in hate crime statutes is legally redundant, or even counterproductive, creating deeper divisions between police and the communities they serve. All 50 states, according to the Anti-Defamation League, have statutes that automatically increase the penalties for violent attacks on police.
And, unlike hate crime laws, they don’t require prosecutors to prove motive.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Huffington Post, “In the vast majority of states, you will get life or considerably less for murder, but if you murder a police officer, you are almost certain to get death. So the truth is that including police in hate crime laws is merely a political statement—and an unnecessary one at that.”
These laws are a recipe for abuse and disaster, and as the Huffington Post notes, they can make it harder to hold police accountable.
More from the Huffington Post:
A Louisiana police chief said in January that anyone who resists arrest or physically assaults a police officer could be charged with a hate crime under the state’s new law.
This interpretation is dangerous: Cops can use charges of resisting arrest to justify excessive force and cover up abusive behavior. Videos of police brutality commonly include officers shouting “stop resisting!” as they pummel a defenseless—and not resisting—victim. Charges of resisting arrest or assaulting an officer often follow.
“Any legislation for a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill seeks to instill intimidation and fear,” said Mike Lowe, a Black Lives Matter activist in San Antonio. “These protections make it easy to silence the voices of those seeking justice and accountability. I will not be silenced by it. All we want is justice and accountability, and law enforcement officers must be held accountable.”
These types of laws should be seen as intimidation tactics and methods of silencing. They open the door for police to abuse their power and use the law to their advantage to push back against those who are fighting for police accountability, racial equity and social justice in general.
We’ve already seen militarized police being used against those who gather to peacefully protest, and the more these laws pop up on the books, the more that type of response is only going to worsen.
Militarized police armed with a “Blue Lives Matter” law will be the ultimate weapon used against voices of dissent.
Read more at the Huffington Post.