Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill, Act 184, that serves to offer Louisiana’s police force additional legal protection amid a particularly turbulent time. The bill, which received unanimous 91-0 support in the House of Representatives, was authored by State Rep. Lance Harris.
The bill expands the definition of a hate crime to include crimes that target police officers and firefighters. While typically hate crimes include definitions based on “identity-based characteristics,” such as age, race, ethnicity, or gender, Louisiana’s law is the first to include a profession-based characteristic.
In addition to expanding the scope of the crime, Louisiana’s law also expands the applicable penalties. If convicted, a person will be subject to five additional years in prison with hard labor and a fine of up to $5,000.00.
Similar bills have been introduced in Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. A representative from Colorado, Ken Buck, has introduced a similar bill on the federal level. Opponents of these bills have criticized their overly protective nature, contending that the proposed law will stifle any activities aimed at ending police brutality. Specifically, activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement oppose the bills, commenting that the bills are contrary to the objectives associated with tempering police interactions with the African-American Community.