Why hate crime legislation isn’t the priority for law enforcement

There are areas where legislation could really make an impact on police officers; hate crime legislation isn’t one of them


Several states, including Washington, Mississippi, New York, Louisiana and Kentucky, have or are considering putting police officers as a protected class in hate crime legislation. Hate crime legislation is now under consideration on the federal level. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 was introduced by Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Orrin Hatch. The measure aims to make it a federal crime to knowingly cause or attempt injury because of the “actual or perceived status” that the person is a law enforcement officer.

Opponents of hate crime laws in general, and the extension of these laws to protect police officers, assert that the laws conflict with our legal history of punishing only behavior and not thoughts, inhibit free speech and public protest, are political statements with selective enforcement, and are redundant since they seek to punish behavior already unlawful with inherent contempt for any victim. Additionally, the increase in federalizing criminal justice issues may infringe on state’s rights.

It would be hard not to support any sign that lawmakers are supporting police officers, but the net effect of hate crime laws on the lives of police officers is not likely to be significant. Here are some areas where legislation could really make an impact:

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