In my previous blog post, I discussed the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill and its implications making resisting a police officer a hate crime in Louisiana. Kentucky is now the second state to pass this law.
This bill that would make attacks on police and other first responders a hate crime under Kentucky law sailed through the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 14, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Bratcher was approved on a 16-2 vote. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed the blue lives matter bill into law on March 24th.
The bill gained attention after the targeted killings of police officers in New York (2014), Dallas (2016), and Baton Rouge (2016). These attacks were heinous, but they were not hate crimes in the classic sense of plausible efforts to intimidate entire communities out of exercising basic constitutional rights such as the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, or voting. While policing, particularly under divisive “us” vs. “them” regimes that fail to adequately train and supervise law enforcement officers, is dangerous work, to pretend that attacks on police are equivalent to lynching or gay bashing is an exercise in moral amnesia.
“Bevin gave House Bill 14 – unofficially known as the commonwealth’s “Blue Lives Matter” bill – the final approval it needed to become law this week, although the measure won’t go into effect until this summer. The fledgling law will add provisions for police and other first responders to the state’s current hate-crime law, which already includes race, religion, color, sexual orientation and national origin as protected classes.”
As the Blue Lives Matter bill gains attention, once again Black Lives Matter activist see the bill as ‘foul play.’ The Black Lives Matter chapter in Louisville described the legislation as a divisive and racist act led by white Republican reps. “I think we do need to understand where racism comes from and how it was created, and how bills like this are meant to further divide. Black Lives Matter activist say that it will allow police officers to pull protestors off the street during demonstrations. Democrat representative had this to say, “I’m concerned that HB 14 will give this kind of fearmongering a license to charge me with a hate crime for doing what my ancestors did during the Civil Rights Movement — standing up for the diversity of our state and the most vulnerable of our communities,”
This bill however in Kentucky saw increased bipartisan support.
Again in Kentucky, they have passed a law to protect police as a protected class before they even passed laws making transgendered people a protected class under the hate crime law. Kentucky already has advanced penalties for those who target police officers. Assaulting a police officer is a felony in the state, and prosecutors can seek the death penalty for those who kill a police officer.
Supporters of the bill say that they are not trying to attack any group but just protect their own. “‘Blue lives matter’ is what the title originally was for this bill and it doesn’t demean any other ‘lives matter,’” one supporter said. “I’m one of those that believe ‘all lives matter.” Of course, Black Lives Matter responds to this argument by noting that believing that ‘All Lives Matter’ is the reason why this bill is so inheritably wrong. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is to acknowledge that black lives matter equally and just as much as white lives. To say ‘All Lives Matter’ is to say that black people are not making a reasonable complaint, that it is perceived bias.
There is no evidence that the Blue Lives Matter bill is necessary or will make first responders safer in the commonwealth.
According to preliminary statistics released by the FBI in May, 41 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2015, a decrease of almost 20 percent from 2014, when 51 officers were killed in 2014. By contrast, Every 7 hours, a citizen is killed by police. Of these murders, only 1% of these officers are indicted and sent to trial. By contrast, 90% of all civilian cases involving a death go to trial. ‘Blue Lives Matter’ is nothing more than a rallying cry from those that want to silence Black voices in defense of police brutality.
My view is this, everyone can agree violence is bad but especially against our first responders. In a time like this where people are divided because of violence, it is imperative that we make laws that will bring people together. If we want to support both communities and first responders, we should train officers on how to avoid unnecessarily dangerous encounters, de-escalate potentially violent situations, recognize the stress police officers and their families confront, and provide mental health resources for those who need assistance. This bill doesn’t address any of these worthy goals.