Because good ideas are rare but bad ideas eternal, the New York State Senate has just given its blessing to a stupid bill aimed at protecting people armed with guns, power, the weight of the law, and numerous immunity options. The “justification” for New York’s addition of cops and first responders to the state’s hate crime law is this:
There has been an increase in mortality rates of law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers and emergency medical services personnel, within the past decade. In a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in 2014, statistics showed that approximately “126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty” which exhibited an increase in comparison to 2012 and 2013. The increase in the death toll has been in part, due to offenses intentionally aimed to harm first responders.
This is followed by a bunch of anecdotes about officers and first responders being on the receiving end of supposedly “targeted” violence. It adds nothing to the “justification” but a few presentation-worthy stories to sway emotions of fellow legislators. It doesn’t make the preceding statement any more correct. It’s actually misleading and wrong in equal parts.
First off, an increase in “mortality rates” is not the same thing as an increase in violence directed at law enforcement officers. The stats legislators are attempting to point to include all deaths in the line of duty, whether they were at the hands of civilians or not. So, this stat is already sort of misleading, albeit only because of the way this bill’s sponsors have phrased it.
Second, the stats the justification quotes are wrong. There were 136 deaths in 2014, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That’s more than what’s stated here. Worrying? Not even close. It’s 20 more than 2013, but one less than 2012’s total. In other words, the stats show no sort of increase that might justify giving police officers more protection. If these legislators weren’t trying to cherry pick, they might have included 2011’s total of 178, which is fifty more deaths than the supposedly-shocking number quoted in the bill’s justification.
Just so everyone’s aware who’s pushing to make an abusable law even more easily-abused, here’s the bipartisan group of sponsors.
Fred Akshar [R] – Longtime law enforcement officer, having served as undersheriff for Broome County before turning to politics.
Patrick M. Gallivan [R] – former Erie County Sheriff (1998-2005), preceded by 15 years with the New York State Police, and followed by a stint on the state parole board. One of several state legislators found to have faked leadership positions in the Senate to get a little unearned extra pay added onto their paychecks.
Tony Avella [D] – Last seen at Techdirt killing off his horrendous “Right to Be Forgotten” bill… but not in an honorable way. Rather than remove it from consideration, he simply revoked his sponsorship, leaving the orphaned bill to wander the Senate halls unattended.
Martin J. Golden [R] – A retired NYPD officer who has been instrumental in adding even more New Yorkers to the state’s sex offender registry, as well as expanding the state’s DNA databank to include people convicted of nothing more than a misdemeanor.
John J. Bonacic [R] – Former assistant district attorney and one of those guys who thinks something must be done about “anti-law enforcement rhetoric.” Apparently, this bill is part of the solution — a bill that could conceivably be twisted to turn “resisting arrest” into a felony-level hate crime. (Because what is “resisting arrest” if not “targeting” of law enforcement for abuse/violence/etc.?)
Here’s the pertinent wording of the bill, which adds cops, firefighters, and EMTs to a long list of groups who have historically been victims of discrimination.
section 1, states that a person has committed a hate crime, when he or she commits a specified offense and either intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed to, or in part because of a belief or perception regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, sexual orientation of a person, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.
Guess who doesn’t fit into that list: the shorter list of occupations that have long been revered, respected, and given considerable amount of leeway to perform their duties. Unlike those who have been singled out for abuse because of their age, disability, ancestry, race, color, national origin, or sexual orientation, the new protected class is entirely composed of voluntary “traits.”
Adding to the ridiculousness is the bill’s name — a self-righteous, heart-tugging melange of authority-worshipping words: Community Heroes Protection Act.
Very few bills of this sort have become law. Many have attempted to give more protection to well-protected powerful classes, but very few have garnered enough support to make it past the introduction stage. This one has moved forward, which is a problem because bills like this that have passed have immediately been abused by law enforcement.