Attacking a police officer may soon be a hate crime in Alabama.
This week Rep. John Rogers (D. Birmingham) urged his fellow lawmakers to pass new legislation identifying police officers as a protected group in order to prosecute criminals who attack them more severely.
“It is a hate crime because it attacks a certain class of individuals: police officers,” Rep. Rogers said, speaking to WBRC Fox6 in Birmingham.
Rogers says he plans to introduce the measure when the next legislative session begins in february, “It is a hate crime, so therefore I support it. I will have that bill drawn up tomorrow.”
This most recent proposal is the next step beyond the 2015 “Thin Blue Line” bill (HB 953) presented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jeff Sessions (R. Alabama), and will follow on the heels of many state-level laws designed to provide greater protection for police and other first responders.
This recent trend has been spurred on by a perception of an increase nationally in the number of attacks against law enforcement, although the data suggest otherwise. According to statistics from the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a national organization dedicated to honoring and remembering the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers in the United States, 2015 actually demonstrated a 21 percent decrease on the average 57 fatalities per year, 2000-2009.
Some reasons for the increased public concern for First Responder safety may include a general focus on gun-related crime, attention being brought to officer-related shootings by the Black Lives Matter movement, and a quantifiable, but slight, spike in violence against law enforcement officers this year.
Statistically, however, violence against law enforcement is down from an historic high during the mid-1970’s, when the average number of police officers killed in the line of duty reached around 280 a year. In fact, current numbers are even down significantly from 2010, when more than 175 officers were killed in action, including 61 gun-related fatalities and 6 assaults.
And, According to the FBI, there was an almost 20 percent decrease in the number of felonious deaths of police officers between 2014 to 215.
Hate crimes are usually defined as violent or destructive crimes targeting a person or group of people based on ethnicity, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability, or religion. It is usually granted to groups who have suffered significant systemic and historical bias. While the status of protected classes of people are, at the federal level, fairly limited, each state may create other protected classes in accordance with their laws.
The “Thin Blue Line” proposal of Sessions at the Federal level, and Rogers’ will seek to add an occupation to the list of protected groups.
So, we all know, love, and need our first responders. They are the heroes that walk among us every day and keep society running in an orderly fashion. They make us proud of their selfless service to community and nation. But is a job a protected class, akin to race and gender?