Minnesota town wants attacks on police to be considered hate crimes
In its newly-signed “Resolution in Support of Law Enforcement,” the council argues that police officers nationwide have recently become the victims of targeted attacks solely because of their position. The resolution says that the citizens of Red Wing “stand with the families of the fallen and the officers throughout the United States.”
It also asks every member of Red Wing Police Department to pull over at 11 a.m. every day in October and flash the lights of their patrol cars red and blue to honor the 28 officers who lost their lives this year.
The resolution says that it stands with National Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury, “who has called on the [Obama] Administration to acknowledge this crisis and asked them to work with us to address the violent surge against police.”
Canterbury met with Vice President Joe Biden in late September to discuss the situation.
"We had a lengthy and, I think, a very productive dialogue about a wide range of law enforcement issues including the proliferation of violence against police officers,” Canterbury told KMSP.
Right now, federal hate crime law only covers race, color, religion and national origin. It doesn’t make any mention of occupation or position of authority, and the council wants to see that change.
“I’d like to see the state legislators do the same thing and make this statewide statement and mean it,” Council Vice President Peggy Rehder told a local CBS affiliate.
The string of violence against police that worries the Red Wing Council comes during a time when the public’s confidence in police is at its lowest in 22 years, according to a Gallup poll. This has been accompanied by an unsettling trend of officers being murdered in retaliation for the perceived racism of police departments. In December, two New York Police Department officers were ambushed and killed by to avenge the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black who was killed by police in New York during an arrest.
At the end of August, police officer Darren Goforth of was killed while pumping gas in Houston, Texas. His assailant approached him from behind and fired on him with a sawed-off shotgun. The county sheriff blamed “out of control” anti-police rhetoric in the Black Lives Matter movement for the high tensions that put officers like Goforth in danger.
In addition to losing their lives, police officers have faced what some call discrimination. In early September, an Arby’s employee refused to serve an officer just because of his status as a cop. In October, a Dunkin’ Donuts employee wrote “#blacklivesmatter” on a cup of coffee ordered by a police officer.
The last time the federal hate-crime law was expanded was in 2009, when the president signed a law to include sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity to the existing categories of race, color, religion and ethnicity, which are also protected by various state laws.
Some states already have special penalties for crimes against police officers, such is in New Hampshire, where killing a cop is punishable by execution.
But some legal experts have cautioned against expanding the federal definition of hate crimes to include voluntary qualities like professions, calling it a slippery slope.
“To include a status [like law enforcement] would open the floodgates of different groups demanding that they also be added to this list,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told U.S. News in January. “The implication could be that the law could be expanded to include a great variety of positions, based on future request.”