Protect Police With Hate-Crimes Laws?

I’ve long since written that I’m skeptical of hate-crimes laws for two reasons.


     First, hate-crimes legislation criminalizes thoughts, not just actions. They don’t just put you away because you bash me, they add years to your sentence if a jury can be convinced you went after me because you hate Jews…Jews…Blacks…Gays…Catholics…anyone for whom a legislature wants to create special, added protections. But thought is supposed to be free here. If you hate me because I’m a Jew, ok, you’re an idiot, but that shouldn’t add to your sentence if you decide to (try to) beat me up.


     Second, I’ve argued that advocates of hate-crimes laws have been short-sighted, not appreciating that once we set up special categories for extra protection, legislatures can make it a hate-crime…add years to criminal sentences…for categories of people advocates of hate-crimes laws never anticipated or intended for extra protection.


     It’s on the cards: the Fraternal Order Of Police wants attacks on police to be tried as hate-crimes. The organization says Congress should extend federal hate crimes statutes to cover assaults directed at law enforcement officers. Those statutes currently apply to attacks shown to be motivated by someone’s “actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” The Fraternal Order of Police, would like to see police officers afforded similar added protection. In 2014 there were 62 deaths of law enforcement officers in felonious incidents, according to numbers from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Yet in 2013 the number was 44, the lowest number since 1887.


     Do we want hate-crimes legislation to blow with the emotional winds? Do we want any category of legislation to do that? Do we have evidence hate-crimes legislation dents the numbers, prevents assaults on anyone? Would we be content with a state legislature using hate-crimes laws to grant added protections to, say, skin-heads? Are you certain that could never happen? And while these laws are still relatively new, I am fairly confident we’d be at least in some preliminarily sense aware if these laws tended to protect those they are ostensibly enacted to protect.


     Race? Ethnicity? Religion? National Origin? Disability? Gender? Gender-Orientation? Now Police? And…? Do you want additionally-protected categories of citizen? Are you content with the criminalisation of your own thoughts? What precisely, if you’re not wholly comfy with their consequences and yet nonetheless support hate-crimes laws, does a proper trade-off look like?

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