Amid heightening tensions between the nation’s Black Lives Matter movement and supporters of law enforcement, Louisiana is set to approve a bill that will now place police officers, firefighters and EMS officers in a classification protected by hate crime laws.
Louisiana House Bill 953, also dubbed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, will classify crimes against law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel the same as attacks motivated by race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
It has passed in both chambers of the Louisiana legislature with little to no friction with a House vote of 91-0 and a Senate vote of 33-3, and will now head over to Governor John Bel Edwards‘ desk as he intends to sign the bill soon.
“Police officers and firefighters often perform life-saving acts of heroism, oftentimes under very dangerous circumstances, and are integral in maintaining order and civility in our society,” said Gov. Edwards in a statement. “The members of the law enforcement community deserve these protections, and I look forward to signing this bill into law.”
It was Louisiana State Representative Lance Harris who authored the bill following the death of a Texas sheriff’s deputy, Darren Goforth, who as ambushed and killed while in uniform.
“It looked like it was strictly done because someone didn’t like police officers, like a hate crime,” Harris said. “In the news, you see a lot of people terrorizing and threatening police officers on social media just due to the fact that they are policemen. Now, this protects police and first-responders under the hate-crime law.”
This amendment to the law translates to a maximum fine of $5,000 or a five-year prison sentence for those convicted of felony hate crimes against police officers. A misdemeanor hate crime charge carries a weight of $500 or six months imprisonment.
Naturally, the bill has faced major criticisms, including responses from Louisiana’s chapter of the Black youth Project 100, who have called on to Edwards to veto the bill, making the claim that it is civilians who are under attack, not policemen, stating that this bill “would serve to provide more protection to an institution that is statistically proven to be racist in action, policy, and impact.”
The Anti Defamation League has also taken a stance, with regional director Allison Padilla-Goodman stating that bringing in occupations a protected class isn’t wise as hate crimes are focused on “immutable characteristics.”
“Hate Crimes are designed to protect people’s most precious identity categories…race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and gender identity. ” said Padilla-Goodman. “Proving the bias intent is very different for these categories than it is for the bias intent of a crime against a law enforcement officer.”