La. bill makes targeting of EMS, firefighters a hate crime

Responders would be protected under the bill at a state level, although a similar federal bill has been proposed in Congress

By Elizabeth Crisp
The Advocate

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is on track to become one of the first states where it is a designated hate crime to target police officers and firefighters.

Legislation that aims to add law enforcement and other first responders to the list of protected classes in the state hate crimes law is quickly advancing through the Capitol.

House Bill 953, which would ultimately increase penalties for certain crimes that target law enforcement and firefighters in Louisiana, passed through a state Senate committee on Tuesday after little discussion. It has faced no voting objection to date. If it passes the Senate without amendments, it will be on its way to Gov. John Bel Edwards for approval.

According to data the National Conference of State Legislatures provided to The Advocate last month, no state has gone so far as to include law enforcement or firefighters among protected classes in hate crime laws.

But state Rep. Lance Harris, an Alexandria Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said he thinks that additional protections are needed in light of high-profile attacks on first responders across the country.

“Due to what’s going on across the country in every region, I think it behooves us to include our law enforcement officers and first responders in the hate crime bill,” he said.

Under current Louisiana law, hate crime charges can be brought in some criminal cases in which the victim is targeted based on race, age, gender, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, creed, sexual orientation or organizational affiliation.

Separately, Louisiana law already provides for increase penalties for crimes against active peace officers.

At least one bill has been proposed at the Congressional level to add law enforcement to the federal hate crimes statute. It is dubbed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, in contrast to the “Black Lives Matter” advocacy effort that has drawn attention to violence against African-Americans, particularly at the hands of law enforcement.

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