The Blue Lives Matter manifesto in Louisiana was passed to ensure police officers, firefighters and other public safety officers could be protected under the hate crime law. However, according to one police chief, it can also be used to mete out harsher punishments for one of the most misused police tactics.
St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Herbert praised the legislation and said anyone who resisted arrest with an officer will have even a minor charge changed to felony hate crime charge.
“We don’t need the general public being murdered for no reason and we don’t need officers being murdered for no reason. We all need to just work together,” Hebert said in defense of the new law. “Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Gov. Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now.”
The state’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards passed the proposal in May and it went into effect in August. It lets prosecutors pursue more serious punishment against people who attack police officers, despite the fact that crimes against law enforcement members are already subjected to severe charges. Under the law, resisting an officer is not a qualifying offense, but battery and assault is.
The Blue Lives Matter came in response to the high-profile sniper attacks against police officers, including a Baton Rouge shooting that left five cops dead. Although many states augmented the punishment for attacking a law enforcement officer, Louisiana was the first state to make police a protected class under hate.
Those convicted of the felony in Louisiana face a fine up to $5,000 or five years in jail while a hate crime charge on top of a misdemeanor is punishable by $500 and a six-month imprisonment.
Of course, this raises the concern of abuse of power. There is the question about how prosecutors will determine the person resisting the arrest was doing so specifically because they hated the police. They will also have to prove the person resisting the arrest actually warranted getting arrested in the first place, because according to one investigation, it was found that just 5 percent of NYPD officers accounted for 40 percent of resisting arrest charges between 2009 and 2014. Many of those officers already had complaint records of excessive force and lawsuits against them.
A resisting arrest charge can also be used to cover up an unnecessary aggressiveness on the part of the police officer and many police departments consider a large number of resisting arrest charges associated with an officer as a red flag for abusive behavior.
These kinds of tactics can hardly improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the public, especially in these racially charged times. However, according to Herbert, there is only one thing that matters:
“These guys go out there every day and the main goal is to protect the public and go home at the end of the day,” he said. “This is one step in making that happen. Hopefully, the rest of the nation follows suit.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlo Allegri