New Alabama bill would increase penalties for crimes targeting law enforcement officers

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by Lauren Walsh, WBMA

A new bill seeks to increase the penalties for crimes that target law enforcement officers.

Under Alabama’s hate crime statute, if a crime is motivated by factors like the victim’s race, color or religion, there are heightened criminal penalties.

Now, one lawmaker wants those increased penalties to also apply if a law enforcement officer is targeted because of his or her job.

Senator Chris Elliott (R-Fairhope) prefiled senate bill 44. It requires increased penalties for committing a crime against law enforcement, if it is shown that the crime was motivated by the victim’s position as a law enforcement officer.

“A bill like this certainly brings a sense of promise to our law enforcement officers as though our lives, our safety, our careers are valued by the public,” said Captain Clay Hammac with Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Hammac spoke to us on behalf of his position on the Fraternal Order of Police. He says there’s a social norming of violence against law enforcement.

“We certainly do see a shift in the climate with our law enforcement officers,” he said. “They certainly are far more on guard. There certainly is a greater, heightened awareness of potential threats to law enforcement, and law enforcement families.”

The bill would require mandatory minimum sentences, including 15 years for a class A felony, ten years for a class B felony, 2 years for a class C felony, 18 months for a class D felony and three months for a misdemeanor.

In Alabama, it is already a capital offense if you kill a police officer. Senator Elliott tells ABC 33/40 his bill is intended to also increase penalties for other crimes committed against the law enforcement community.

Elliott says he has a lot of support for his bill. When asked about potential challenges to getting it passed, he said some people have expressed concerns about legislating intent for a crime.

The legislative session begins February 4.

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