Following a spike in deadly attacks on police, more than a dozen states have responded this year with “Blue Lives Matter” laws that come down even harder on crimes against law enforcement officers, raising concern among some civil rights activists of a potential setback in police-community relations.
The new measures build upon existing statutes allowing harsher sentences for people who kill or assault police. They impose even tougher penalties, extend them to more offenses, including certain nonviolent ones such as trespassing in Missouri, and broaden the list of victims covered to include off-duty officers, police relatives and some civilians at law enforcement agencies.
Proponents say an escalation of violence against police justifies the heightened protections.
“What we’re getting into as a society is that people are targeting police officers not by something that they may have done to them, but just because they’re wearing that uniform,” said Republican state Rep. Shawn Rhoads of Missouri, a former detective.
Perps who have been protesting police tactics are expressing alarm.
“This is another form of heightened repression of activists,” said Zaki Baruti, a Soros’ useful idiot, aka activist and community organizer from St. Louis County.
“It sends a message to protesters that we better not look at police cross-eyed.”
Police deaths on the job have rose last year to 143, from 116 (in 2013) including 21 killed in ambushes — the highest number of such attacks in more than two decades.
Nearly all states already have laws enhancing the punishments for certain violent crimes against law officers. One year ago, Louisiana became the first state to enact a law adding offenses against police, firefighters and emergency medical responders to its list of hate crimes.
More states began expanding their penalties after last summer, when five officers were killed in a July 7 sniper attack in Dallas, and three more officers were slain in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 10 days later.
Penalty enhancements have passed this year in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia, most of which are led by Republicans. Similar bills are under consideration in other states.
The Missouri legislation would add involuntary manslaughter, stalking, property damage and trespassing to the list of crimes bearing enhanced penalties for targeting police. It also would apply the tougher punishments to crimes involving officers’ spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents and in-laws.
It is awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who vowed to put in place “the toughest penalties possible for anyone who attacks a law enforcement officer.”
“Missouri will show no mercy to cowards who assault cops,” he said.
Georgia’s Back the Badge Act increases mandatory minimum prison terms for assault or battery against public safety officers. Some of Arkansas’ enhanced penalties for targeting current and retired law officers, first responders and their families were passed via an emergency declaration, making them effective immediately upon Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.
Arizona’s Blue Lives Matter Law expands the crime of aggravated assault against on-duty officers to apply to off-duty officers not engaged in police activities. Some lawmakers also are seeking enhanced federal laws. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Ted Poe — both Texas Republicans — recently reintroduced the Back the Blue Act that would increase the punishments for crimes against law enforcement officers. It would make killing a judge or police officer punishable by death or a minimum of 30 years in prison.