You can almost sense a shifting in the tides. At the same time as the new White House occupant is putting forward policies intended to both keep citizens safe and protect the law enforcement community when they act responsibly in the course of their duties, Missouri will be considering some related measures. Lawmakers there will be deliberating a bill which will increase the penalties for people who attack first responders, including police, firefighters and paramedics. And the penalties they’re talking about are serious indeed. (Associated Press)
Gov. Eric Greitens is pushing to toughen Missouri’s already stiff penalties for attacking a police officer, reflecting similar efforts underway in other states and pleasing many in Missouri’s law enforcement community, which has been on the defensive since the police killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson more than two years ago.
Whether such changes are needed is debatable — among those who think they aren’t is a fellow Republican lawmaker and legal expert who helped craft revisions of the state’s criminal code that just took effect…
Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer who ran multiple campaign ads featuring him firing large guns, pledged during his first major policy speech to help pass “the toughest laws in the country for anyone who assaults a peace officer,” even though Missouri already has harsher penalties for people who hurt cops or first responders.
One example of the new penalties is the punishment for second-degree assault. A conviction for that crime against your average fellow citizen can draw anywhere from one day in jail to seven years depending on the circumstances. The same crime committed against a police officer currently brings five to 15 years. If this new law is passed it would rise to either 10 to 30 years or a life sentence.
Unfortunately I’m already seeing some writers referring this to a “hate crime” format, which is unfortunate. As I’ve written her repeatedly, I don’t believe in the idea of so called “hate crimes” and I believe they should be unconstitutional. (We’re talking about thought crimes here, which should give anyone chills.) But if our legal system insists on saddling us with them then what’s good for the goose is good for the cop-killer as far as I’m concerned.
But this really isn’t a hate crime law. We already have a tradition of giving out harsher penalties to criminals for attacking certain individuals. (Just look at what you get for trying to kill the President.) The injury or death of any innocent human being is a tragedy, but you’re doing more damage to society when you take out elected leaders or first responders. From that perspective there should be nothing wrong with putting these new sentencing guidelines in place. Passing it shouldn’t be much of a problem either. Would you want to be the guy or gal running for office next year who voted against more protections for the police?