Is attacking a cop a hate crime? New federal law would give police similar protections
Federal hate crime laws provide added protections for those violently attacked because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, and allow added punishment for their assailants.
Is it time we gave cops those same protections?
That would be the outcome of The Protect and Serve Act of 2018, federal legislation proposed a few weeks back by Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The bill would create a new federal crime for targeted attacks on law enforcement officers and could send perpetrators to prison for life.
The measure is aimed especially at those who ambush officers. That was the case in the suburbs in October 2014, when two McHenry County sheriff's deputies responding to a domestic disturbance in Holiday Hills were ambushed by a man armed with an AR-15 rifle. Deputy Dwight Maness, 47, died about 11 months later due to complications from his gunshot wounds.
Asked about the proposal Thursday, Sheriff Bill Prim told us, "It's nice to see our federal partners have our back."
"Obviously, we know what it's like to go through an ambush," Prim said.
"We know the effect it can have on law enforcement, on the officers involved, and on the entire community."
The legislation has the backing of law enforcement groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations and National Sheriffs' Association.
"Our nation's law enforcement officers face dangers every day in the course of protecting their communities, but now they face a new threat -- deliberate attacks, often by ambush, by people who desire nothing more than to wound or kill an officer," FOP President Chuck Canterbury said in support of the bill.
"Finally, Congress has decided to act."
A 2015 Department of Justice report cited by Hatch and Heitkamp shows that after a major decline in ambush attacks on police in the early '90s, the numbers largely held steady at about 200 per year, with a slight uptick after 2010.
The proportion of fatal attacks on officers attributable to ambushes also is increasing, the report states.
But is it necessary?
The measure has its detractors, including the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and human-rights organizations. They say the measure is unnecessary, since laws already on the books in every state provide additional protections to law-enforcement officers and extended sentences for those who attack them.
Hate-crime laws, they say, should be for "historically persecuted groups."
"This bill signals that there is a 'war on police,' which is not only untrue but an unhelpful and dangerous narrative to uplift," a joint statement from the critics states.
We'll keep an eye on the legislation as it works its way through Congress and keep you updated.
In the meantime, what do you think? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing
Similar measures have been tried in Illinois, but they've gone nowhere.
In 2016, a pair of downstate senators introduced "Blue Lives Matter" legislation that would add police officers -- along with jail guards, probation and parole officers, and first responders -- to those protected by Illinois hate-crime laws.
However, the measure stalled in committee last year and hasn't progressed since.
Also in 2016, powerful Chicago Alderman Edward Burke proposed an ordinance that would make an attack on city police officers a hate crime, but like the state legislation, the proposal hasn't moved forward.
Town steps up for police dog
Mount Prospect has a new police dog, Alex, to help serve and protect the community. And now Alex, thanks to the community, is getting some extra protection himself.
Police this week said thanks to all those who donated to the organization Protecting K9 Heroes to get Alex a bulletproof vest and a kit that allows him to be injected with the anti-opiate naloxone should he ingest heroin or a similar drug while on the job.
"Unfortunately, we are losing K9s to the drug epidemic during searches, and our goal is to have their handlers properly equipped in the case of emergencies," Protecting K9 Heroes says of the kits.
Alex, an 82-pound, 18-month-old, purebred German shepherd from Belarus, began patrolling Mount Prospect in May. He's paired with officer Bryan Furr, a 15-year veteran.
Police said it will take at least 10 weeks for Alex to get his vest -- they're specially fitted for every dog -- and they'll post a photo once it arrives.
Building bridges by bowling
Buffalo Grove police hope to close the gap between cops and kids when it hosts its second annual free "Bowl With a Cop" from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Bowlero, 350 N. McHenry Road, Buffalo Grove.
"When kids in the community are able to spend time with police officers in a fun, informal setting, it helps build a trusting relationship between them," Community Relations Officer Matthew Mills said. "We want children to see that police officers are approachable and always willing to offer them help."
Kids (or their parents) can register by contacting Mills at (847) 459-2560 or email@example.com.
The Lake County jail's innovative efforts to keep inmates from coming back again and again got another boost this week through a $100,000 grant from Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County.
The grant will help the jail continue teaming with Nicasa, a Round Lake-based behavioral health services organization, to provide the "high utilizer" population -- those booked into the jail three times or more in 12 months -- with treatment meant to prevent rearrest and reincarceration.
"Ultimately, this program benefits society, reduces jail population, and saves taxpayer dollars," Sheriff Mark Curran said.
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