JACKSON, Miss.- Lawmakers in Mississippi are in the process of drafting legislation that would include police officers as a protected class under the state’s hate-crime laws.
Senator Sean Tindell, and others, have begun co-authoring a bill that should be finished by the 2017 session that would allow for heavier penalties for individuals that assault police officers for being police officers.
“What it is going to do under the hate-crime statute is enhance the penalty in situations where law enforcement are targeted, soley for the fact that they are law enforcement,” said Sen. Tindell.
Currently it is a felony to assault an officer in Mississippi.
Tindell said the legislation comes after a “Blue Lives Matter”discussion, analyzing the treatment of officers across the nation and what Mississippi can do to protect them.
“The way I see it is if these men and women are out there putting their lives on the line everyday to protect us and we have seen this rash across the country where officers are being attacked for nothing more than doing their job, and protecting people coming after them, when that happens if you choose to do that in Mississippi we are taking the approach that you’re going to spend more time in jail,” said Tindell.
Tindell said this would not include every situation of police harassment or assault. It could only be charged as a hate crime if it was specifically targeting a law enforcement officer because of their profession.
“Proving a hate crime is not easy, and nor should it be easy. It should be difficult,” said Tindell. “You’ve got to be able to prove that the intent of the person was to target that specific individual or profession.”
Hate crime statutes are already recognized in Mississippi. The aim of this legislation is to add police officers to that list.
Tindell said the legislation is already in the draft process and should be up for discussion by the 2017 legislative session.