More Legislators Think Underprivileged Cops Need 'Hate Crime' Law Protections

by Tim Cushing
Techdirt
Oct. 23, 2015

Another US city has stepped up to shelter some of its most privileged citizens from "hate crimes."
The Red Wing (MN) City Council passed a resolution last week calling for crimes against law enforcement to be prosecutable as hate crimes.

The picturesque town on the banks of the Mississippi River is believed to be the second place in the nation — and the first city — to pass such a resolution.

“It seems that anyone wearing a blue uniform has become a target in the minds of a lot of people — a target not because of what they’re doing, but a target because of who they are, which for me really kind of moves it into the hate crimes area,” said Council Vice President Peggy Rehder. “In this case, it’s not the color of their skin, but the color of their uniform.”
First off, cops aren't being targeted with any more regularity than they've ever been. In fact, the last time cops were "targeted" at a level anyone rational would consider to be a problem was during Prohibition, nearly 100 years ago. (The second spike is due to another round of prohibition -- the declaration of the "War on Drugs" by President Richard Nixon.)



What "hate crimes" laws attempt to do (in their very inept, redundant way) is address inequality. Underprivileged groups often subjected to racism and other biases are the beneficiaries of these well-meaning laws. But even the most ardent supporter of hate crime legislation would be hard-pressed to find a reason to "protect" a group with vast amounts of authority and power.

If evening out inequality is the goal, the law's intentions are being severely twisted by resolutions like these. To paraphrase George Orwell, law enforcement officers are animals much more "equal" than the public they're supposed to serve. Much like the politicians that so often shield them, cops, sheriffs and others are a step or two above the laws they enforce. It takes an incredible stretch of the imagination to find police officers deserving of additional protections.

As Overlawyered's Walter Olson points out in his editorial at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this resolution is a solution in search of a problem. And applying it will only create more problems.
It is common for hate-crime laws to create multiple jeopardy at different court levels arising from a single offense, which is often considered a danger to liberty, even if courts do not always find that it formally violates the Bill of Rights’ double jeopardy clause. But defenders of these laws argue that local authorities in many parts of the country long refused to take seriously crimes against certain scorned or disenfranchised minorities, thus in their view justifying a second layer of prosecutorial attention.

But there’s no evidence that authorities now or in the past have brushed off lethal attacks on police as something not worth investigating or prosecuting.
If a person shoots a cop, a manhunt immediately ensues. The same cannot be said about racially or religiously-motivated killings. In those cases, an investigation ensues before such a motive is firmly established. Recently though, any act of violence against an officer has almost always been portrayed as a "targeted" attack.

Law enforcement officers work in a violent business. They will often find themselves in situations where they may be injured or killed. This is part of the job. What it isn't, however, is a non-stop sequence of "hate crimes. But if this law goes into effect, any act of violence -- even the BS "assault" of officers (attacking fists with faces, inadvertent contact, not somehow materializing fully-cuffed and seated in a squad car the moment an officer declares you under arrest, etc.) -- can subject a person to additional legal penalties. And this would be on top of existing additional legal penalties.
Attacking a police officer already carries serious consequences in Minnesota. Under state law, an assault on a law enforcement officer can mean increased fines and jail time. If the officer is injured, a misdemeanor assault can bump up to a felony. State law also carries enhanced penalties for attacks on many professions, including firefighters, judges, prosecutors, teachers and postal workers, among others.
This isn't stopping police unions and the politicians who listen to them from pushing for these extra protections. And they're doing so with a dearth of evidence supporting their claims that being a cop is more dangerous than it's ever been. Even the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund's official stats show an 18% decline in fatal shootings of officers compared to last year.

Pay no attention to the statistics, though. It's what law enforcement officers feel is happening that really matters.
Over time, the number of officers killed has remained “relatively static,” [Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director] Jim Pasco said, but the numbers don’t take into account the better equipment, training and medical care benefiting police in recent years. “The overwhelming anecdotal evidence that comes to us: There’s an increased hostility,” Pasco said.
The words "overwhelming" and "anecdotal" should never be combined with "evidence." You can strike either "overwhelming" or "anecdotal" and still form a credible sentence. But you can't combine both and expect to be taken seriously. Not when the actual stats don't back up these assertions.

These are legislative proposals based on nothing more than law enforcement's unwillingness to reap what years of abusive behavior has sewn. These entities aren't pushing these laws to address known flaws in the justice system. They're pushing them to forcefully "restore" the respect they've squandered.













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