Out of control policing; ‘It’s open season on Americans by US police forces’

 According to an article in Techdirt, Congress has passed a bill making it a hate crime to attack police.

Why do we need this law? We don’t. But don’t let that stop the bill’s sponsors from arguing otherwise.

“In rural and urban areas alike, law enforcement officers face heightened risk every time they put on their uniforms,” Heitkamp said.

They actually face historically low risks, with last year’s death stats being even lower than the year before. But let’s not let actual death totals get in the way of increasing penalties for anyone who has the misfortune of dealing with cops. It doesn’t just cover murder — even though “targeted killings” are the main talking point. It covers any bodily injury, which makes it perfect for stacking charges on arrestees. Anything from an aborted fist swing to an accidental bump can be turned into an assault charge and this law gives federal prosecutors the chance to escalate the side effects of resisting arrest into a federal prison sentence. And it’s a great way to keep abused citizens from filing complaints, as Radley Balko explains:

What harm could come of this bill? An assault on a police officer charge is often used a cudgel — it’s a way of dissuading legitimate victims of police brutality from filing complaints. If such an assault charge could soon come with an additional federal charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison, that cudgel grows by about 10 sizes. It gets awfully persuasive.

Lest there’s any doubt this bill is a “hate crime” bill, the press release makes it crystal clear. 

Since May 2016, several states have enacted laws that make attacking police because of their occupation a hate crime. The Protect and Serve Act takes a similar approach and is modeled after the federal hate crime statute, 18 U.S.C. § 249.




According to an article in the Volokh Consoiracy there is no justification for making attacks on police officers a federal crime.

In addition to being unconstitutional, the Protect and Serve Act is also unnecessary. As Radley Balko explains, violence against police officers remains at historically low levels, and there is no reason to think that state and local authorities do not take such crime seriously. Police have obvious incentives to aggressively investigate crimes targeting their fellow officers. The same goes for prosecutors, who need to maintain good relations with the police in order to do their own jobs effectively. If anything, we have far more reason to fear that police and prosecutors will fail to properly address crimes committed by police than crimes committed against them.

Some states already have laws imposing additional penalties for crimes targeting on-duty police. Even in those that do not, there is every reason to expect that crimes against police will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. As Balko notes, police are far from being a helpless minority group that requires federal intervention to save them from the indifference or hostility of state and local governments:

The conventional thinking on hate crimes is that, when someone kills or assaults or commits a property crime like vandalism in such a way that targets the victim because they are a member of a vulnerable community, all members of that community are affected. The problem with adding police officers (or the military — another group some Republicans have tried to add) is that they are about as far removed from a vulnerable group as one can imagine. They carry guns and other weapons. They have the power to detain, arrest, and kill. And they literally have the entire government at their backs. That’s who they represent.

Balko also points out some ways in which the House version of the Protect and Serve Act could be abused by law enforcement:

What harm could come of this bill? An assault on a police officer charge is often used a cudgel — it’s a way of dissuading legitimate victims of police brutality from filing complaints. If such an assault charge could soon come with an additional federal charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison, that cudgel grows by about 10 sizes. It gets awfully persuasive.

Or think about a demonstration where police push into a protest line, resulting in pushing and shoving. It would now get pretty easy to start handing out assault charges against the protesters. A politically ambitious U.S. attorney who wants to, say, shut down Black Lives Matter could get a lot of mileage out of this bill.

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