Alabama lawmaker pushes bill that would make it a hate crime to attack cops
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the wake of numerous attacks in which law enforcement officers were targeted and killed, one Alabama lawmaker is urging his colleagues to pass a bill that would categorize such heinous acts as “hate crimes.”
Hate crimes are prejudice-motivated acts targeting an individual because they are part of a group, such as a certain race or religion. The U.S. Department of Justice says that “hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots.”
Identifying a group as a potential victim of hate crimes often triggers stiffer penalties when they are targeted by criminals.
“It is a hate crime because it attacks a certain class of individuals: police officers,” explained Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham). “And it’s not over. You got copy cats.”
Other states have similar laws applying to law enforcement personnel and first responders. Rogers plans to introduce the bill next legislative session.
The idea has some similarities to the Thin Blue Line Act, which Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has introduced at the federal level. The bill would enforce harsher penalties on individuals targeting police officers and first responders. Sessions worked closely with federal, state and local law enforcement officials for years as Alabama Attorney General and before that as a U.S. Attorney.
Sessions first introduced the legislation in response to the surge of attacks on police officers, which have occurred in various cities around the country.
In one local example last August, an Alabama cop was pistol-whipped with his own gun. Instead of lending a helping hand, a crowd of bystanders posted photos on Facebook and Twitter that included some anti-police captions. Later, the officer said he didn’t try to shoot his attacker because he didn’t want the media to label him as a racist.
In more recent examples, law enforcement officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were gunned down by killers specifically targeting police.
“The alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped,” Sen. Sessions said last year after introducing his bill. “The Thin Blue Line Act will help protect our officers by bringing harsher penalties to criminals committing these vile acts and by extending the protections afforded to federal officers to our local police and first responders. This legislation honors the message sent by law-abiding Americans that we cannot stand idly by as attacks are waged upon those who serve and protect our communities.”