Law makes it a hate crime to assault police officers in Louisiana.
Earlier today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed Louisiana House Bill 953, the so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bill, into law, expanding hate crime laws to include law enforcement officers.
State Representative Lance Harris (R), who sponsored the bill, talked to CNN about “people terrorizing and threatening police officers on social media, just due to the fact that they are policemen” earlier this week. He added that “there is a concerted effort in some areas to terrorize and attack police, and I think this [bill] will go forward and stop that.”
Edwards and Harris are the two latest lawmakers to jump onto the bandwagon of #Bluelivesmatter, a movement that continually deflects from the increasing public demand for police accountability by placing officers on a moral pedestal. This bill, however, would be the first of its kind, and is jarring in its complete lack of understanding when it comes to the actual reality of police/civilian interactions.
Amid the national debate over the systemic violence perpetrated by police officers—the majority of which is inflicted on black and brown bodies—this bill can only be read as, at best, a sign of significant disconnect from reality, and, at worst, a direct slap in the face to the many victims of police brutality. The same can be said about the bills of its kind that will likely follow in other states, as legislators inevitably take advantage of the opportunity to appear pro-cop. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) has already introduced his own Blue Lives Matter bill on the federal level, stating that police officers faces persecution “solely based on the color of their uniform.”
Edwards and Harris have stated that the bill was a direct response to the death of Darren Goforth, a Texas sheriff’s deputy who was killed “execution-style” last year. However, though Goforth’s death was unfortunate and unconscionable, his attacker was deemed incompetent to stand trial, and the idea that Goforth’s death represents some sort of nationwide attack on police that merits protected status is ludicrous. This is evident with the most cursory glance at statistical evidence: according to a December 2015 report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 42 officers were killed in the line of duty that year (a 14 percent drop from 2014.) A similar report by the American Enterprise Institute showed that in 2015, shootings of police officers had reached their lowest point in a decade.
Mostly though, the bill is unnecessary because Louisiana, along with 36 other states nationwide, already has laws in place that allow prosecutors to punish individuals who kill law enforcement officers with greater severity.
Louisiana, like many other states, already punishes people who assault or kill cops more harshly than people who attack or kill, say, waitresses or pizza delivery guys. The state automatically classifies cop-killing as first-degree murder — a charge that could result in the death penalty if convicted — even when it’s not premeditated. Assaulting or battering a police officer also comes with a harsher charge.
This law was not written to ensure an officer’s safety.
It’s about sending a message to activists pushing back against a systemic culture that allows police officers with few exceptions a friendlier legal shake when faced with misconduct.
It is about maintaining that culture.
The fact is, cops wield power, by sheer virtue of the fact that they have chosen to become cops. The idea that they should be shielded by a law specifically designed to protect populations who are inherently disenfranchised by their lack of power is so backward and so insulting that it’s difficult to even try and follow the “logic” behind it.
Activists and critics of the law agree.