Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is expected to sign this week a “Blue Lives Matter” bill into law, which would add police officers as a protected class under the state’s hate-crime law.
The bill that makes attacks on law enforcement officers, firefighters, and medical first responders a hate crime will be the first law of its kind in the country.
State Rep. Lance Harris (R) sponsored the bill following the death of Darren Goforth, a Texas sheriff’s deputy who was shot “execution-style” in an ambush last year.
“In the news, you see a lot of people terrorizing and threatening police officers on social media just due to the fact that they are policemen. Now, this (new law) protects police and first-responders under the hate-crime law,” Harris told CNN.
“If you’re going to have an extensive hate crime statute then we need to protect those that are out there protecting us on a daily basis,” he added. “There is a concerted effort in some areas to terrorize and attack police and I think this will go forward and stop that.”
Edwards’ office has said that he will sign the bill this week. The governor has numerous family members who have served or who currently serve as law enforcement officers.
“As the son and brother of a sheriff, I have the greatest respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our communities, state and nation,” Edwards said in a statement, according to The Daily Advertiser. “Police officers and firefighters often perform life-saving acts of heroism, oftentimes under very dangerous circumstances, and are integral in maintaining order and civility in our society.”
“The members of the law enforcement community deserve these protections, and I look forward to signing this bill into law,” he added.
Under the state’s current law, a person convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime faces up to six months in prison and $500 fine, and a person convicted of a felony could face an additional five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000, according to The Daily Advertiser.
The “Blue Lives Matter” bill takes its unofficial name from Black Lives Matter. The movement protesting police brutality has sparked a renewed push by some to up protections for police officers. Supporters of the Blue Lives Matter movement are concerned that law enforcement is under attack in the wake of protests over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) in March introduced a “Blue Lives Matter” bill on the federal level to add law enforcement as a protected class under federal hate crime law. Buck said that “many criminals have committed or attempted the murder of police officers solely based on the color of their uniform.”