WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers in 14 states have introduced at least 32 bills proposing that members of law enforcement be included in hate crime protections ― like those received by people of color, religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community ― since the beginning of the year, according to an analysis of state legislatures by The Huffington Post.
Last year, Louisiana became the first state to loop law enforcement into its state hate crime statue, with it’s so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bill. Several states soon followed. The Mississippi state Senate advanced a similar bill on Jan. 26, and the Kentucky House of Representatives advanced its own version on Feb. 13.
Most of the bills aren’t that successful. At least 20 of the bills introduced over the past year died by vote or at the end of the congressional session after being referred to a state legislative committee. Twenty-two are currently sitting in a committee for review, including in South Carolina, which doesn’t even have a hate crime statute on the books. A bill in Tennessee was withdrawn.
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.
“In the vast majority of states, you will get life or considerably less in prison for murder; but if you murder a police officer, you are almost certain to get death,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “So the truth is that including police in hate crime laws is merely a political statement ― and an unnecessary one at that.”
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