Hoping to deter deadly attacks against police officers, some states want to expand hate-crime laws, which are traditionally confined to characteristics such as race and ethnicity, to cover people who work in law enforcement, reports Stateline. Nearly every state has a hate-crime statute that increases penalties for offenders motivated by hatred of a victim’s race, religion, sexuality or other personal characteristic. Louisiana in May became the first to add police to the list when it passed “Blue Lives Matter” legislation. Now half a dozen more states are considering similar changes to their hate-crime laws. Supporters argue the measures, which are backed by police, are a deterrent and send a strong message to police officers that the community stands behind them.
Forty-one officers died in the line of duty last year, says the FBI, and the recent killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge have fueled calls for new measures to keep them safe. Critics say adding police to hate-crime statutes is unnecessary because there are already laws mandating longer sentences for those convicted of attacking police. Unlike hate-crime laws, those laws do not require prosecutors to prove the motive for an assault. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League worry that expanding hate-crime laws to cover police or other professions would dilute their original intent: ratcheting up the punishment for acts designed to intimidate whole communities.