Miss. panel advances 'Blue Lives Matter' bill on targeting police
A bill to double penalties for crimes targeting police officers, firefighters and medics — in or out of uniform — is moving ahead
By Jeff Amy
JACKSON, Miss. — A bill to double penalties for crimes targeting police officers, firefighters and medics — in or out of uniform — is moving ahead in the Mississippi Senate.
The Judiciary A Committee decided with a voice vote over some opposition Tuesday to send Senate Bill 2469 to the full Senate.
The proposal says any crime committed against emergency personnel because of their status as police officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians would be a hate crime, under the same state law that already doubles penalties for targeting people because of race, ethnicity, religion or gender — but does not cover crimes targeting gay, lesbian or transgender people.
Committee Chairman Sean Tindell, R- Gulfport, said the "Blue Lives Matter" measure is needed after police were shot in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, apparently by people aggrieved over how police were treating African American men.
"I think this is the perfect avenue to protect our law enforcement and tell people that it you target them, we're going to come down on you," Tindell said.
Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans, support the measure.
After the meeting, Tindell said he didn't know of any incidents where police had been targeted in Mississippi.
The committee rejected an amendment by Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, which would have limited the enhanced penalties to crimes committed against personnel in uniform, which he said would prevent off-duty officers from abusing the law, say, if they simply get into a fist-fight with someone.
The committee also rejected an amendment by Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton, which would have made it a hate crime for a police officer to kill someone in violation of official procedures. Blackmon argued that Mississippi needs to do more to protect black people from being targeted by police.
"We want to give them, under color of law, enhanced protection," Blackmon said of police officers. "But when they do wrong, under color of law, we won't penalize them."
Erik Fleming, chief lobbyist for the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group wants to make sure people won't be subject to enhanced penalties for verbal disputes with police during protests.
"It's unnecessary, but if it's going to pass, it should have First Amendment protections and it should be only for uniformed officers," Fleming said.
Tindell said political protesters will be able to show juries they had no hateful intent, limiting its use by prosecutors in such cases.