Nearly every state imposes additional criminal penalties when a perpetrator assaults or kills a police officer. Should such attackers also be convicted of hate crimes? Many states think they should, reports Governing. Last year, Louisiana became the first to pass a “blue lives matter” law, treating targeted attacks against law enforcement officers as a hate crime. More than a dozen states have followed suit. “Any piece of legislation that tries to hold people accountable for any criminal activity that’s hate-driven is good,” says Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation. “When you ask a certain class of people, in this case cops, to risk their lives for perfect strangers, you should step up and say, ‘We’re going to act when you are a victim of hate.’”
Not every assault on a police officer or sheriff’s deputy should be treated as a hate crime, Bueermann says. A cop might get punched in the nose because the perpetrator is trying to get away, or is simply too drunk to know better. It’s only when someone specifically targets cops — as happened with the fatal shootings in Baton Rouge and New York that prompted these laws — that it should be considered a hate crime, Bueermann says. That’s what makes these laws problematic, argues Michael Bronski, a Harvard professor who co-authored the book “Considering Hate.” Bronski opposes hate crime laws in general. He believes those that seek to protect people based on sexual orientation or racial identity rather than profession make more sense, because such groups are commonly subjected to discrimination, while police officers are not. “There have been some instances where they’ve been singled out,” he says, “but these attacks are not pervasive against police forces across the country.” Such arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Few laws have passed so rapidly and with so little opposition. The blue lives matter provisions may end up being used sparingly, but their continuing passage is all but assured. It is becoming the legislative equivalent of putting out “we support the police” yard signs.