Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced [press release] on Monday that he plans to propose a law providing for additional punishment for crimes against law enforcement officers. The proposed Police Protection Act (PPA) would extend hate crime protections to law enforcement officers, organize a “campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities” and “increase criminal penalties for any crime in which the victim is a law enforcement officer” even if the crime would not otherwise qualify as a hate crime. Abbott used assault with bodily injury as an example of a crime subject to the proposed enhancements, from the current third degree felony to a second degree felony under the proposal.
The Governor’s announcement comes amid a national conversation about police use of force, particularly against black citizens, and subsequent retaliation. This week, Texas Senator John Cornyn introduced [WP report] legislation that would elevate the penalties for killing, conspire to kill, or attempting to kill officers and judges. Last week, North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCory signed [JURIST report] into law a bill providing that police camera footage, including body camera footage, is not a matter of public record and proscribes the procedure for release of footage. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that also raises the penalties [JURIST report] for crimes against police officers. Some have criticized the measures as being redundant since many laws already raise the penalties for crimes against police officers. Kami N. Chavis from Wake Forest University School of Law discussed [JURIST Commentary report] the recent proposals to add police officers to hate crime statutes last week. In June, Jessica Henry of Montclair State University discussed [JURIST Commentary report] the recent additions to Louisiana’s hate crime legislation.