A Chicago alderman seeks to have attacks against first responders treated as a hate crime- and it is ruffling the feathers of activists and the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to DNA Info, the “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance was proposed by former police officer and dean of City Council Ald. Edward Burke.
The proposal would extend felonious hate crime penalties to offenses committed against current or former police officers, firefighter and emergency technicians, increasing fines from $25-$500 to $500-$2,500 and making offenders subject to a six-month jail term.
“We need to extend to our first responders every possible protection,” Burke said when first proposing the ordinance. “Each day police officers and firefighters put their lives on the line to ensure our well-being and security. It is the goal of this ordinance to give prosecutors and judges every tool to punish those who interfere with, or threaten or physically assault, our public safety personnel.”
Chicago Fire local union president Thomas Ryan agrees with the initiative.
“The job of a first responder is to serve, protect and render aid to citizens in crisis. All too often, these first responders fall victim to physical violence and personal assault,” he said. “This ordinance will provide added protection to first responders who risk their lives in service to others while also adding consequences for those who feel compelled to attack them in the performance of their duty.”
However, not everyone agrees with the proposal- namely civil rights groups.
Immanuel Sodipe of Black Youth Project 100, called the initiative an “attack on our First Amendment rights,” suggesting that any “interactions with police,” such as a protest, could lead to arbitrary jail time and hefty fines. Sodpie also said the law would also make it harder for police in Chicago to be held accountable for their actions.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Burke’s proposal “a distraction.
“The title of this ordinance -‘blue lives matter’- appears to be an attempt to shift attention from the work of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has challenged police abuse,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Existing laws appropriately penalize acts of violence against a police officer or other first responder. This proposed ordinance is a distraction from the conversation we need in Chicago about fundamentally reforming the policing system, which has failed the people of the city.”
The ACLU suggested that the City Council shift attention to the very real and pressing problem of how to reform policing in Chicago, including rebuilding the trust between the community and the Police Department. We are in the midst of a grave crisis regarding this trust, and we should be working to ensure that the community knows that police will be held accountable when they act improperly. This is a critical problem that needs addressing now.”
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