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Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally on July 7. (Reuters)

New 'Blue Lives Matter' legislation makes attacks on police a hate crime


New 'Blue Lives Matter' legislation makes attacks on police a hate crime

With two attacks targeting police officers occurring less than a week apart, state and federal lawmakers are introducing "Blue Lives Matter" bills that could make it a hate crime to target cops. 

Severe penalties for targeting law enforcement already exist, but in most states these statutes are used as a plea bargaining tool.  

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Blue Lives Matter spokesman Lt. Randy Sutton says these bills will give prosecutors more leverage. 

"What is does is it creates a law that adds a sentence to an already established crime," Sutton said.  

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the first "Blue Lives Matter" bill into law in May. 

Now similar bills are popping up in states like Florida, Kentucky and Wisconsin, following the recent police attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, R-Texas, and Sen. Thom Tillis of, R-N.C.,  are sponsoring the "Back the Blue Act," which would increase penalties for those who intentionally target law enforcement, among other things. 

These proposed bills protect against crimes targeting police the way it would for those targeting people for their race or ethnicity. 

"I think it's good in a couple ways. [The legislation] provides a little more consequence to the actions. Two, it creates an awareness within the people of the state that it exists and that police officers are valued. And right now police officers need to feel valued," Sutton said, referencing the recent attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. 

But not everyone thinks it's a good idea. 

Clarise McCants, spokeswoman with the black activist group BYP100, said hate crime law shouldn't cover police --or any other profession. She believes these laws should cover "things that are immutable characteristics. Things that you can't change about your identity."

In 2009, hate crime legislation was expanded to include crimes motivated by a person's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability --expanding on laws that protect race, color, religion or national origin --something that McCants said was a long, hard fight.

McCants said "Blue Lives Matter" also comes when many are calling for police to be more accountable.  

"So when our people are killed in the streets by police, so often [the police] face no repercussions and they get paid actually," McCants said. "So instituting 'Blue Lives Matter' laws will only just further that lack of accountability." 

The Anti-Defamation League also warns that Louisiana's "Blue Lives Matter" law could do more harm than good.

In a blog post, it wrote that the new law could make it more difficult to prosecute attacks against police because hate crimes come with a higher burden of proof.

"That additional intent requirement, which is not included in existing laws covering attacks on police officers, would make prosecutions more difficult, not easier," the organization's blog added.

But Sutton said that these bills are meant to create an awareness of the dangers police face.

"I believe in reality, these types of statutes are more of a statement, more of a showing of support for their law enforcement in that state," Sutton said. 

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