UPDATE: LA Governor John Bel Edwards signed the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill into law yesterday, making Louisiana the first state in the nation to make attacks on police and first responders a hate crime.
EARLIER: A Louisiana State Representative and son of a Sheriff is calling for the passage of a new bill into Louisiana law, known as the “Blue Lives Matter” bill.
House Bill 953 will make attacks on police and first responders a hate crime, making it the first such law in the country to do so.
“It offers an extra level of protection for those who put their lives on the line to protect us every day, and it’s symbolic of our appreciation for that service,” said Republican Lance Harris . “We already had an extensive hate crime statute that covers many others; I think it’s appropriate to add police and first responders.”
Harris’ bill won immense support from both the House and Senate, with near certainty that it will be passed into a law after Governor John Bel Edwards makes good on his promise to sign it, according to WWLTV.
Governor Edwards’ family spans four generation of Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s, including the Governor’s brother, Sheriff Daniel Edwards.
“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. “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.”
Harris feels that there are cases in which the police are attacked for no other reason than “that some people hate police,” thus making it the definition of a hate crime.
Inspired by the slaying of Texas Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth, Harris said the targeted killing inspired him to write the bill.
“He was shot about 15 times when he was sitting in his police car by someone who hated police,” Harris said.
Critics of the Louisiana bill -like the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100- say the law is unconstitutional. “By treating the police as specialized citizens held above criticism and the laws they are charged to enforce,” the organization released in a statement, “we lose our ability to exercise our First Amendment right.” Opponents of hate crime laws argue that such legislation violates the First Amendment by punishing what people say, think and believe- not just their criminal acts.
Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association President Mike Stone said Harris’ bill will make a “powerful statement to those of us in law enforcement and it’s one that we appreciate.”
“My philosophy is all lives matter, but I hope people realize that those of us in law enforcement overwhelmingly want to protect those in our communities,” said Stone, who is sheriff of Lincoln Parish. “They are our neighbors and our own families. It’s a hard job, sometimes a dangerous job, and this is bill shows that sacrifice is appreciated.”
The bill is expected to be signed into law within the week.
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