Louisiana has become to first state to equating attacking police officers to a hate crime. On August 1, more than 400 new laws went into effecting including Act 184 which is also commonly known as the Blue Lives Matter Bill. This bill creates additional penalties for targeting police officers firefighters and EMS personnel. In Louisiana, a person convicted of a hate crime can have an additional five years to their sentence and a $5,000 fine for additional felonies. Many other states, including Louisiana, already have additional laws for assaulting members of law enforcement.
The new law is seemingly the first to use occupation as a basis for discrimination in a hate crime. Typically a hate crime is motivated by race, religion, or sexual orientation. The bill allows vocation to be added to the list of marginalized groups.
“I don’t think that it’s constitutional,” Ernest Johnson, president of the Louisiana NAACP, told the AFRO “I haven’t seen a group like the KKK…that kill police officers because they’re police officers.”
After string of tragic events related to law enforcement, there has been nationwide tension between civilians and police officers. On July 5, a video of a police officer shooting Alton Sterling six times in Baton Rouge Louisiana circulated around the web. This sparked protests against police brutality across the country. On July 17, Gavin Eugene Long killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, causing many to worry about the safety of police officers. This helped to ignite the Blue Lives Matter movement which supports protecting law enforcement. Although the bill was originally passed in May before the incidents occurred, some feel that it is a response to the growing protests against police brutality.
“I think that this law down here is a knee jerk reaction to the black lives matter movement,” said Johnson.
Other states may soon follow suit. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has proposed numerous times that crimes against law enforcement should be hate crime in Texas as well. In July he released a statement saying “At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the State will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities.” Texas also has experienced violence both against African Americans and police officers. On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson allegedly killed five police officers and injured nine who attended a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. The next day he was killed by the police with a remote control robot bomb.
Many agree that steps need to be taken to protect law enforcement, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) who signed the bill into law earlier this summer. In a statement Edwards said, “The men and women who put their lives on the line every day, often under very dangerous circumstances are true heroes and they deserve every protection that we can give them. They serve and protect our communities and our families. The overarching message is that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”
The Louisiana State Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from the AFRO.
“We don’t need it. The police officers are already being protected,” said Johnson. “I think that Louisiana took that a little too far.”