Taking a tip from states across the country that have introduced so-called Blue Lives Matter bills, congressional Republicans and at least one Senate Democrat have introduced legislation to feed the false narrative about a war on cops.
The Protect and Serve Act calls for a 10 year prison sentence for anyone who assaults a police officer, Buzzfeed News reports. The legislation essentially treats cops like hate crime victims.
More from Buzzfeed News:
Hatch’s Senate bill — using language typical of hate crimes laws that protect minorities — would penalize those who target someone for serious assault or homicide because the victim is or is perceived to be a law enforcement officer. It would apply if the assailant crosses state lines, uses a weapon that has traveled interstate, or if the offense interferes with commerce. It would be equally applied to those who “attempt to” injure or kill an officer, too. Someone who kills or kidnaps an officer would be eligible for life in prison.
The House version does not stipulate that perpetrators must be motivated by the belief that their victim is a law-enforcement officer — only that they must “knowingly” injure or kill the officer.
It’s already a crime on the state and federal level to injure a cop, and already carries enhanced penalties, but congressional Republicans and North Dakota Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp can’t get enough of that carceral state.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, the Senate bill’s primary sponsor, tried to justify its necessity in a May 7 press release: “Our bipartisan bill would make clear that attacks against law enforcement officers based on their role to protect and serve the community will be met with harsh penalties, and that these crimes will be elevated and prioritized.”
That may make for a nice political narrative, but there’s little evidence to suggest that there’s an epidemic of crimes against cops. As Buzzfeed News notes, FBI statistics suggest that there has been a fluctuation of police homicides over the past 10 years, not a steady increase.
Civil rights groups—including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch—signed a joint letter opposing the bill.
From the letter:
Extending hate crimes protections to law enforcement officers is a profoundly inappropriate and misguided proposal for several reasons. First, police already have substantial protections under federal and state law, rendering this bill superfluous. Second, hate crimes laws are intended to extend protection to historically persecuted groups that have experienced a history of systemic discrimination based on a personal characteristic, such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; law enforcement officers are not a historically persecuted group. Third, this bill signals that there is a “war on police,” which is not only untrue, but an unhelpful and dangerous narrative to uplift.
There is something particularly ghoulish about equating cops with marginalized people who face violence from police, but we have seen it before. You can try to twist it with language, but the statistics speak for themselves: In 2017, 987 people were killed by cops in the U.S. That same year, the number of officers killed hit a near all-time low.