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Louisiana governor signs bill expanding hate crime statute to police, EMS workers, firefighters

[JURIST] Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards [official website] on Thursday signed into law an amended hate crime bill [text, PDF] including police, EMS personnel and firefighters in the category of those protected. Proponents of this bill have stated that the addition was necessary [NYT report] to protect against "deliberate campaign[s] to terrorize" police officers. In particular, the recent anti-police sentiment following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner was a driving force behind the amended legislation. Despite claims that the bill is only meant to protect officers, the bill has drawn the contempt of some civil rights groups, including the "Black Lives Matter" movement, as "dilut[ing] the basic meaning of hate crimes" and "undermin[ing] the movement protesting the use of force by the police." According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund [official website], there have been no police fatalities in Louisiana so far in 2016.

This legislation comes at a time where police use of force has been questioned on a national scale. Last week a Baltimore police officer was acquitted [JURIST report] in the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was injured in police custody and later died. Earlier this year the US Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation [JURIST report] of the San Francisco Police Department following the shooting of an unarmed African American. In December an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] two officers involved in a 2014 shooting resulting in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Earlier that month the DOJ announced that it would be opening a full investigation [JURIST report] into the Chicago Police Department following the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager.

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