Hate crimes

Kentucky Becomes Second State to Add Police to Hate Crimes Law

Louisiana already illustrating potential for abuse.


Gov. Matt Bevin
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

This week Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law House Bill 14, which adds law enforcement and emergency responders to the state's hate crimes law.

Technically, this is supposed to mean that if somebody intentionally targets a person for a crime because they're police officers, he or she may face enhanced sentences for a conviction. That's how hate crime laws are used in cases when a criminal targets somebody on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, and other protected categories.

But Louisiana has already passed a law just like this one, part of a whole "Blue Lives Matter" movement, and what we've seen so far is a push by law enforcement to classify any attempt to resist them as a hate crime. It's not being used to add punishment for those who target the police, because to the extent that police get targeted for attacks or ambushes, these are extreme, high-profile outliers.

What really happens when police have attempted to apply the law in Louisiana, it's because people say nasty things to police while resisting arrest. As C.J. Ciaramella previously noted, one police chief in Louisiana has said this is how he believes this law is supposed to function. He flat out said that people who resist arrest could face enhanced charges under the state's hate crime laws.

Here's what I wrote about police attempting to use hate crime laws to punish resistance or insults against them in New Orleans:

As somebody who has read many, many, many reports of anti-gay assaults and violence over the years, I just want to point out that while it probably looks clear to everybody outside the police that this wasn't a hate crime (again, regardless of a position on hate crime laws), what do people consider when evaluating the credibility of hate crime claims against other minorities? Things like whether the person assaulting a gay person or other minority shouted bigoted slurs, just like Delatoba did here. That is one of the factors used to decide that a crime is motivated by hate, and many supporters of hate crime laws get very, very upset when police don't immediately accept that hate speech as evidence that a hate crime occurred. But since we don't have the ability to read minds, what hate crime enhancements often actually do is add additional punishment based on what people say or express while committing a crime.

But this paranoia-fueled backlash to the "Black Lives Matter" movement seems likely to spread. President Donald Trump has put out an executive order calling for research into the possibility of new laws that could possibly add additional federal penalties against those who target police. Or those who get accused of targeting the police, anyway.

Should we be wondering which state will be the first to add law enforcement to their public accommodation laws, making it a crime for a business to refuse them service?