A newly introduced bill is aiming to increase the penalty for harming a police officer, models itself after a federal hate crime statute, CNN reports.
The Protect and Serve Act, which has bilateral sponsorship, is necessary to protect law enforcement officers from violence for doing their jobs, supporters of the bill say.
“The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 makes clear that no criminal will be able to escape justice when he singles out and assaults those who put on the badge every day to keep us safe,” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement. “These heinous, cowardly assaults are an attack not just on law enforcement, but on the rule of law.”
The bill, which was introduced in both the House and Senate this week, holds a maximum sentence of 10 years for causing serious bodily injury and a potential life sentence for killing or trying to kill an officer. In the House version, that sentence is extended to life in prison if the crime results in the kidnapping or death of a law enforcement officer, The Root reports.
Sponsors of the bill say that it is modeled after The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which makes it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury to someone because of the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Already a number of human rights groups have come out against this new bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Their issue with the bill includes the fact that it offers hate crimes protection to a group that does not need it — among other things.
“This bill serves no purpose other than to further dangerous and divisive narratives that there is a ‘war on police’, ” Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the Washington Legislative Office at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Federal hate crimes laws were passed to correct the centuries of inaction and injustice that too often was the response to violence based on immutable traits and identities, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. This definition under no possible interpretation could include being a member of law enforcement.”
She added: “Congress should vote this down quickly and decisively.”
It is not clear if and when this bill will reach the floor of either chamber for a vote.
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