Thursday, May 24, 2018

Abstract

 

excerpted from: Lisa M. Olson, Blue Lives Have Always Mattered: the Usurping of Hate Crime Laws for an Unintended and Unnecessary Purpose, 20 Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice 13 (2017) (309 Footnotes)(Full Article)

 

LisamolsonIn 2016, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to enact a so-called "Blue Lives Matter Law." House Bill 953 amended the definition of hate crime, providing for a protected class of victims based on "actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer or firefighter." The law applies to offenses against persons and property. Louisiana law provides for sentencing enhancements pursuant to a conviction for a hate crime, increasing the permissible punishment for misdemeanor offenses by a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in prison. Felony offenses may receive a sentence enhancement of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Based upon the wording of the Louisiana law, an offender who vandalizes a police car may be charged with a hate crime and receive enhanced punishment.

Similar bills that give law enforcement officers protected status under existing hate crimes laws were introduced in several other states and at the federal level. In January and February of 2017 alone, thirty-two such bills were introduced in fourteen states, though most were not successful. In March of 2017, two states--Kentucky and Mississippi changes to their existing hate crime law that mirrored the changes made to Louisiana's amended law. Arizona and Oklahoma enacted similar Blue Lives Matter laws. However, the Oklahoma and Arizona laws do not amend the definition of a hate crime to include officers of the law as a protected class. Rather, Arizona allows for increased penalties for assaulting police officers, even those who are off-duty, and Oklahoma increased the minimum penalty for first-degree murder of a police officer to either life without parole or death.

Extending hate crime protections to law enforcement officers is problematic and inconsistent with the original purpose of hate crime legislation. Hate crime laws were enacted due to a recognition of the greater level of harm experienced by hate crime victims, which extends to the entire targeted community, in contrast to crimes not motivated by bias. The severe impact of criminal victimization is tied to the history of disparate treatment, including prejudice and violence toward marginalized groups. This disparate treatment has the potential to create rifts between the targeted community and the larger community within which it resides, resulting in further alienation of the targeted group. The larger community can reduce the alienation of marginalized groups by reaching out to the victim and addressing the underlying issues of the criminal behavior, especially through prosecution. Hate-crime laws are intended to send a message to society that bias-motivated offenses will be severely punished.

Law enforcement officers are not a marginalized group, nor have they experienced a history of prejudice, discrimination, or systemic violence. They are not vulnerable members of society who are specifically targeted for characteristics that are beyond their control. As such, amending existing hate crime laws to include law enforcement officers is an inappropriate application of the protections afforded by law. 

[ The article has the following five sections:


I. the History of Hate Crime Legislation
II. Employment as a Protected Status
III. Acts of Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Existing Protections
IV. Law Enforcement Officers and the Disparate Treatment of Minority Citizens
V. the Emergence of the Blue Lives Matter Movement as a Means of Silencing Black Voices ]
. . .


Police officers already enjoy numerous protections under the law. In fact, law enforcement officers enjoy some of the strongest possible protections resulting in the harshest punishments for those who attack police. There is no need to provide additional protection for law enforcement via alteration of hate crime legislation. If a state feels that increasing protections for law enforcement officers is necessary, such protections can be implemented in ways such as those enacted in Arizona and Oklahoma. Both states passed statutes that do not usurp previous legislation designed to provide protection and assurance for marginalized communities that the majority community will stand against the prejudicially motivated abuses addressed in hate crime laws. The law enforcement community has never been a marginalized community. Including protections for law enforcement officers in hate crime laws is improper and hurtful to communities that have suffered from historical mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement officers. The misappropriation of these statutes is a direct result of the backlash to the BLM movement and an attempt to give additional status and protections to law enforcement officers who are not in need of such status and protections while also silencing marginalized voices daring to speak out against injustice. Our government is sending a strong message to its minority citizens through "Blue Lives Matter" laws. Government will continue to support structural racism, promote subjugation, and treat its most vulnerable communities with disrespect.

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