A new Louisiana law will make attacking a police officer a federal hate crime, the first of its kind. But given how eager lawmakers are to outdo each other demonstrating support for law enforcement, it won’t be the last. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing for a similar law in Texas. And following summer recess, Congress is likely to take up similar legislation called the Blue Lives Matter Act, Reuters reports.
On Tuesday, the sponsor of the Louisiana law inadvertently explained exactly why the law is pointless even as it poses civil liberties risks.
“It sure looks like there’s a concerted effort to harm police officers. I hope adding police to the Louisiana hate crimes statute helps deter that kind of despicable activity,” said State Rep. Lance Harris about the Baton Rouge shooting and the five officers killed in Dallas.
In both Dallas and Baton Rouge, the suspects were killed soon after the shootings. If the prospect of getting blown up by a bomb delivered by a police robot doesn’t stop a potential shooter, then surely an abstract federal statute isn’t the most effective deterrent.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the legislation into law, he said that it was merely meant to show appreciation for police officers.
“I don’t see anything inappropriate about my support for law enforcement or my support from law enforcement,” Edwards said. “First responders should be able to serve without being targeted just because they are police. That’s the least we can do.”
That’s fine and well. But one can easily imagine the law being used to pile on extra charges in cases where someone has an altercation with police, regardless of who started it and why.
That’s particularly dangerous during a protest. Do we want people charged with a hate crime because they shouted a critical slogan and then had a physical encounter with officers?
As the activist group Black Youth Project 100 noted when the Louisiana law passed, “By treating the police as specialized citizens held above criticism and the laws they are charged to enforce, we lose our ability to exercise our First Amendment right.”