The debate and discussion has resurfaced regarding if attacks on police officers should be considered and treated as a hate crime. I think it’s fair to say that there are excellent arguments for both sides of this issue. What do you think?
The FBI uses the following definition to categorize an act as a hate crime and for the purposes of collecting statistics: “A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
Earlier this year Louisiana expanded its hate-crime law to include additional penalties for people convicted of attacking police officers and first responders. The law previously provided for enhanced penalties when the victim of a crime of violence was targeted on the basis of several other factors including race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.
Recently, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) introduced the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016. The bill would expand the federal hate-crime statute to make it a crime to target law enforcement officers for acts of violence.
With the recent killings of police officers, such as in Dallas and Baton Rouge, this movement will likely gain support. Some feel this effort is based on a misunderstanding of what hate crime statutes are designed to do, specifically deal with pervasive racial and religious prejudice.
In discussing his legislation, Buck indicated whether based on skin color or uniform color, a crime motivated by hate is not going to be tolerated in the United States.
Many have asked if it is possible and do some state laws already provide additional penalties for attacks on police officers without classifying them as a hate crime? Before Louisiana amended its hate-crime statute, state law provided longer sentences for those who committed attacks on law enforcement officers.
Some feel that an overbroad definition and classification of hate crime may create two impressions: that an act of violence is not being treated serious enough unless it is categorized a “hate crime” and inclusion in the list of categories is considered a mark of respect. Is there an underlying battle of symbolic messages between “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” going on?
With the FBI definition in mind, should we treat, categorize, and enforce a violent crime against police officers as a hate crime? If not, would it be a hate crime if a gang member spray painted “187 cops” (187 is the California Penal Code section for murder) to a block wall or building, and later that same gang or individual committed a violent act against a police officer and or verbally referenced their sentiment and hatred toward law enforcement? I believe a separate distinction is warranted involving hate crimes against law enforcement. #hatecrime, #bluelivesmatter, #blacklivesmatter, #lawenforcement, #dallas, #batonrouge
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As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.