Bill Could Increase Penalties for Crimes Against Police

Proposed bill could boost police protections

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A "Blue Lives Matter" law in Louisiana could influence other states around the nation to propose stronger penalties when it comes to crimes against law enforcement officers.

A similar bill has been proposed here in South Carolina.

After seeing police shootings, like the one in Dallas, lawmakers around the nation have introduced new bills extending law enforcement protections.

"We put those men and women out on the line to protect us," says Senator Greg Hembree, who is co-sponsoring the proposed bill in South Carolina.

In Louisiana the “Blue Lives Matter" law was passed last year and gives additional protections and increased penalties under their hate crimes law for police officers and first responders.

Kentucky and Mississippi are trying to do the same.
  
"Identifying a particular class as protected by hate crime legislation can send the message that the state is on their side,” says Seth Stoughton, USC Law Professor.

Stoughton says he understands why lawmakers around the nation would want to increase protections for police officers, but says labeling offenses as a hate crime can blur the lines.
  
"Is it to protect the disadvantaged, or is it to provide and additional protection to a relatively advantaged group?"

While South Carolina does not have hate crime legislation, Sen. Hembree says the proposed bill, that is still in its early stages, is similar to Louisiana’s law.
 
"This bill, introduced by Senator Verdin is I think in line with some of the concern sweeping the nation as you see sort of general respect for law enforcement and the work they do," says Sen. Hembree.

Currently if an officer is murdered in the line of duty, the death penalty is automatically put on the table in South Carolina, but these enhanced penalties could include all crimes like harassment and assault.

The bill suggests penalties from 2-15 years.
 
"By creating a special class of victims and giving them additional protections so hopefully that serves as a deterrent if someone were inclined to attack a police officer, this would hopefully give them pause."

This bill is still in its early stages, but could be going to committee for discussion.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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