New Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is pushing to toughen the state’s already stiff penalties for attacking a police officer, reflecting similar efforts underway in other states and pleasing many in Missouri’s law enforcement community, which has been on the defensive since the police killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson more than two years ago, the Associated Press reports. Whether such changes are needed is debatable. Among those who think they aren’t is a fellow Republican lawmaker and legal expert who helped craft revisions of the state’s criminal code that just took effect.
“We can feel like we’re doing a great thing and we’re really solving the problem,” said state Sen. Bob Dixon, chair of the committee on criminal laws. “This does not solve that problem.” Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer who ran multiple campaign ads featuring him firing large guns, pledged during his first major policy speech to help pass “the toughest laws in the country for anyone who assaults a peace officer,” even though Missouri already has harsher penalties for people who hurt cops or first responders. Lawmakers in more than a dozen states and Congress have proposed making it a hate crime to assault an officer. Louisiana became the first state to enact such a law in May, allowing prosecutors to seek stronger penalties when police, firefighters and emergency medical crews are intentionally targeted because of their professions. Almost every state, including Missouri, already has tougher penalties for assaults or other offenses against police, says the National Conference of State Legislatures.