John Newsome and Carma Hassan, CNN, May 21, 2016
With the nationwide friction between the Black Lives Matter movement and supporters of law enforcement as a backdrop, Louisiana is set to approve a bill that would expand the state’s hate-crimes statute to add the targeting of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.
The bill, also known as the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, has passed both chambers of the Louisiana legislature and heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. Edwards intends to sign the bill soon, his press secretary Shauna Sanford tells CNN.
Louisiana would become the first state to have such as law on its books.
If the governor signs the measure, the state’s hate-crime law would change to read: “It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim of the following offenses against person and property because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property or because of actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.”
The law’s critics however, see applying protections to law enforcement specifically under ‘hate crime’ statutes as counterproductive.
“Adding professional categories to the current Hate Crimes statute deters efforts from protecting against identity-based crimes,” Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman said in a release. “We are not happy that it is being signed into law.”
Padilla-Goodman says the ADL sent a letter to the governor, saying the bill “risks confusing the purpose of hate crime laws” and adds that the ADL supports enhanced penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers, but have not seen cases where those crimes have not been “investigated and prosecuted vigorously under current Louisiana law.”
“The bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are already better protected under other laws,” writes Padilla-Goodman. “Hate Crimes are designed to protect people’s most precious identity categories . . . like race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and gender identity. 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.”