Emotions are running high, not only in New York City but across the nation, in the wake of the assassination of two Big Apple police officers. (And now the shooting of two more during a robbery.) This is completely understandable, and the nation is right to be concerned about the ongoing waves of anti-cop activism. But the police unions in New York are taking an unusual step this week which will not, in my opinion, be productive.
In the wake of the murder of two New York City police officers and a national debate about policing, the National Fraternal Order of Police is asking for the Congressional hate crimes statute to be expanded to include crimes against police officers. The union has more than 300,000 members.
Violence against police officers that is motivated by anti-police bias should be prosecuted as a hate crime, the nation’s largest police union is arguing in a letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders this week.
“Right now, it’s a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their skin, but it ought to be a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their uniform as well,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
On a purely emotional level I can completely understand Mr. Pasco’s feelings on this. It’s a natural response and one which I can readily see being embraced by the majority of Americans. Unfortunately, it is not a rational response under the law. I’ve written about my feelings regarding so called “hate crime” laws many times, and as much as I support the police, this situation is not an excuse to alter those views. These laws would be held as unconstitutional in any court not poisoned by political correctness, and they serve only to further divide the nation along demographic lines, seeking to push unequal enforcement and protection under the law.
But that doesn’t mean that the murder of police officers can’t be treated more harshly, and it already is in most instances. While the life of a single police officer is not worth more or less than any other citizen – just as each life has the same worth regardless of skin color, gender, sexual orientation or religion – we can assign additional penalties to persons who attack democracy and our system of justice. When you kill a police officer, you are not just murdering one man or woman; you are tearing down the fabric of civilization. That is a crime unto itself, and it can be handled under federal law.
For just one example, New York did away with the death penalty entirely at one point, and the liberal elites who control the state remain opposed to it today. But when the monstrous cop killer Ronell Wilson had his day in court for the slaughter of two undercover officers in New York, he was still given the death penalty under federal law. The one thing which could improve the situation in New York and other similar states who oppose the death penalty would be to provide exceptions for the murder of police and elected officials as a separate charge to secure the continuation of civil society. Allowing this at the state level could remove the need for handling such cases separately in the federal courts.
There is already more than sufficient precedent for treating some crimes differently in court, particularly in the sentencing phase, for extraordinary circumstances. This is frequently seen when the offender is shown to have acted with particular malice or a wanton disregard for human life. There is no reason that this can’t be additionally codified to include the murder of law enforcement officers or governmental representatives of the people. And, again, this is not because the life they have taken is worth more on an individual basis, but based on the additional damage they have carelessly inflicted on the fabric of civilized society. Murder a police officer in the line of duty? Automatic death penalty… no exceptions. We put you in a dark cell and after your appeals run out we execute you. (While we’re at it, let’s bring back the firing squad so others considering such actions know we’re serious.) We’re very sorry if you had a “troubled childhood” or are mentally ill, but you’ve also demonstrated that you are too dangerous for us to tolerate your continued existence in civilized society.
Calling such laws a “hate crime” or citing the “color of their uniform” as the reason for treating them differently, though, sends entirely the wrong message. It reinforces the idea that some lives are worth more than others and that unequal protection under the law is acceptable. The police unions should abandon this approach and instead seek to enlist support for more specific application of the death penalty in cases such as this. And while we’re at it, let’s take this opportunity to review the existing “hate crimes” on the books and do away with them.