from the red-tape-around-a-blue-line dept
Yet another politician can be added to the list of people who think police officers just don't have enough protections as is. Following in the footsteps of legislators in New Jersey and Minnesota -- along with Rep. Ken Buck (CO) -- Texas governor Greg Abbott has decided it's time to treat attacking officers as a "hate crime."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) wants the targeted killing of a police officer to be deemed a hate crime in Texas and urged lawmakers to send him such a bill to sign during next year’s legislative session.
Abbott announced Monday his plan to lobby for adding his Police Protection Act to Texas law. Along with extending hate-crime protections to law enforcement, the measure would also increase criminal penalties for any crimes in which the victim is a law enforcement officer and “create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities,” according to a statement from Abbott’s office.
Nothing "creates a culture of respect" like handing beneficiaries of a host of "extra rights" even more protection in the form of stiffer penalties just because the victim was wearing a certain uniform. As Fault Line's JoAnne Musick points out, "hate crime" laws are generally enacted to provide greater protections for historically underprotected classes, not those already in positions of power.
Are police an otherwise vulnerable group? Is violence against an officer intended to hurt or intimidate the entire police community? Are crimes against officers underreported and in need of encouragement to prosecute them? Plain and simple, the answers are no. Police are not particularly more vulnerable. In fact, they are better trained and greater equipped to protect each other and themselves. Crimes against police are rarely underreported. They are most definitely heavily prosecuted – as they should be. So, why is there a need to create a special class?
The Dallas shooting that left five officers dead is the only reason this call for legislation even exists. It's a kneejerk reaction that shifts even more power to the powerful. It's sure to gather support from legislators because who could possibly be opposed to punishing cop killers? Add to that the further consolidation of power it represents and there's very little chance someone won't run this up the legislative flagpole. After all, the governor himself is calling for legislation, so it's guaranteed to become law if it hits his desk. That's an easy win -- something legislators like almost as much as jingoism and "tough on crime" posturing.
Rather than address the issues that have led to this (seeming) flashpoint (despite the recent murders of police officers, numbers are still on track for another "normal" year in on-duty officer deaths), politicians like Abbott have decided to give law enforcement yet another tool to use to significantly harm anyone who doesn't immediately comply with their commands. And this is in a state that already adds years to sentences if the crime victim is a police officer.
[A] simple assault is a class A misdemeanor carrying a punishment of up to one year in jail; however a simple assault against a police officer is a third degree felony punishable up to 10 years in prison.
That's the current law. Abbott wants something above and beyond this. Simple assault, under current Texas law, includes simply threatening someone or "provocatively" making physical contact. Push back when being arrested? That's assault. Accidentally bump an officer's elbow while attempting to comply with a frisk? Assault. The law already encourages prosecutors to pile on. This would make it even worse.
The underlying issues, which have prompted a horrifically violent reaction, aren't going to be mitigated by giving law enforcement and prosecutors even more leverage. Greg Prickett -- a 20-year veteran of law enforcement -- points out that the current miserable state of affairs can't be blamed on anything other than law enforcement's own actions over the past few decades. According to Prickett, this is what's prompted the shooting of law enforcement officers.
It’s simple, really. It is militarization of the police coupled with a lack of accountability for their actions.
Law enforcement has shifted away from being an integral part of the communities they serve and opted instead to view themselves as an occupying force in a war zone. The weapons and vehicles are repurposed military gear. Officers' training goes heavy on force deployment. Very rarely are tactics like de-escalation or actual community-oriented policing given any priority. While there's no condoning the actions of people who kill cops, the reality is that law enforcement itself has shown over the years that its preferred method of communication is violence. It's the only thing it truly understands.
Governor Abbott may think he can reverse this course by throwing more prison time at certain criminals, but it's not going to stop people from killing cops. All it's really going to do is give officers and prosecutors a way to inflict maximum pain for the most minimal injury or perceived slight.