Should physical force against a first responder be considered a hate crime? Lawmakers want to enact a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that would stiffen penalties for any physical force used against a police officer.
Jeremy Napierala worries about his brother a lot these days. He's a police officer in Fredonia. “The scene in Fredonia has gotten a lot worse.”
So he supports anything that may help keep his brother safe. “They're putting their life on the line every day for average people. So, I think it's understandable.”
“I think police officers need all the support we can give them,” added Lancaster resident, mike Bowman.
But not everyone we spoke to is behind the bill. “A crime is a crime no matter what it is if you hit me, if you hit a police officer, that's assault. If a police officer hits you, that's assault too,” said Cece Henderson.
“What about the police officers that are assaulting other people and all the stuff that they're getting away with?” added Kelly Woods.
Currently, hate crimes only refer to an attack based on things like race, sexual orientation, or religion. The bill would add police officers to that list, and it would create tougher penalties for offenders.
“It's a good gesture,” said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace. “I don't know if it will be a deterrent to anyone. It's one of those situations where law enforcement is targeted I doubt a perpetrator would not do it because of enhanced penalties.”
The Buffalo Police Union is expressing similar concerns. In a statement, it said, "We certainly applaud any legislation that may deter police from being assaulted. Though in all practicality I don't know how much a deterrent it would be. The criminal element is going to do what they are going to do without fear of consequence."
The bill is far from a done deal. It has yet to be formally drafted, and even if it gains support of the democrat-controlled Assembly, lawmakers aren't back in session until January. That means we wouldn't see any action until next year at the earliest.
Louisiana passed a similar law in May. It includes damaging a police car.