Hate crimes

Alabama Republicans Now Support Hate Crime Laws—To Protect Police Officers

The state wants to add cops to the list of oppressed classes.


Republican state lawmakers in Alabama have identified a vulnerable class that they claim needs special protections: police officers.

"Everyone agrees that it should be a hate crime to shoot a police officer," said state Sen. Cam Ward (R–Alabaster), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The legislature will seek to make that position official in February when it considers state Sen. Chris Elliott's (R–Daphne) proposal to add law enforcement to the list of groups protected by the state's 1994 hate crime legislation. "I don't know anyone who opposes that," Ward told AL.com.

Except, there are many people who oppose modern hate crime laws. In 2010, the liberal writer Jesse Lerner wrote an excellent historical critique of contemporary hate crime laws for Dissent, noting that early models of hate crime legislation focused "on the deprivation of constitutional rights, rather than on the identity of the victim." In recent decades,  Lerner writes, legislators have sought to redefine hate crimes "on the basis of the victim's identity, rather than on the victim's equality under the law." 

Indeed, an offender faces a lengthier sentence in most states today if his or her actions were seemingly motivated by heinous bias against someone's gender, race, religion, and/or disability. To the distaste of many Republicans, congressional Democrats have pushed to expand those protections to include LGBTQ identity. Yet most offenses for which a hate crime enhancement is applicable (or being sought) are already illegal activities. 

Alabama Republicans used to understand this and were able to resist writing additional criminal enhancements into state law. Now they're threatening to open the floodgates all the wider by extending hate crime enhancements to an entire profession. Where will that end?

We can look to Louisiana, which was the first state to protect cops under similar legislation. The law has since been used to classify both resisting arrest and shouting slurs at cops as hate crimes. The latter has also happened multiple times in Pennsylvania. 

Hate crime laws seek to enhance punishments for offenders who attack a person or their property based on specific aspects of their identity; is the same crime committed against a person whose identity is incidental to the offense not as bad? By punishing ideological and religious violence, we are treating agnostic violence—or violence motivated by an unprotected aspect of a person's identity—as less bad. There is potential for abuse in that approach, as evidenced by what's happening in Louisiana and Pennsylvania; but in a more subtle way, it erodes equality before the law.  

Alabama lawmakers cite the murder of officer Billy Fred Clardy III as reason enough to act. But the data here actually cuts against Republicans' stated goals. The vast majority of violent encounters experienced by cops are not motivated by ideological hatred for the police, but are tied to the very nature of the job they signed up for. What's more, murders of police officers are at record lows

It seems that Republicans in Alabama, who once challenged the idea that any group should have their rights elevated due to their identity, have learned to demand it when it's politically expedient.

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  1. This means Republicans are just as bad as the hundreds of liberal groups calling for hate laws.

    1. I suspect that very soon, conservatives will start calling for hate laws to protect Republican POTUSes… If you are a Republican POTUS, you have a ***RIGHT*** to carry the “nuclear football”, regardless of whatever “high crimes and misdemeanors” you may have committed! Accusing a Republican POTUS of “high crimes and misdemeanors” shall be a “hate crime”, if you cannot PROVE your allegations to the satisfaction of a majority of Senators!

      1. Fuck off Mary.

  2. “Everyone agrees that it should be a hate crime to shoot a police officer,” said state Sen. Cam Ward (R–Alabaster)

    Everyone agrees that it should be a hate crime for state Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) to be such a lying piece of shit.

  3. I’m no fan of hate crimes in any situation, but:

    Some people hate blacks. You can’t change being black.
    Some people hate women. You can’t change being female.
    Some people hate gays. You can’t change being gay. (in my estimation)
    You can stop being a cop.

    1. One out of three isn’t bad…

    2. But you can’t stop the cop mentality.

    3. I don’t know about that. Being a cop is an identity. It is who you are.
      It is not unusual for people to commit suicide after being stripped of their law enforcement powers. They can literally do anything they want. They lie, cheat, steal, rape, lie, assault, murder, lie, and get away with it all because they have the “public trust.”

      Yes one has a choice to become a cop. But once one has a taste of that kind of power, it can be impossible to go back.

  4. “Everyone agrees that it should be a hate crime to shoot a police officer,” said state Sen. Cam Ward (R–Alabaster), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

    “Everyone, that is, who ain’t a *hater*.”

  5. Cam Ward (R–Alabaster)

    I can see identifying him as Republican, but as a white dude?

  6. re: “Everyone agrees that it should be a hate crime to shoot a police officer”

    No, actually we don’t. There are lots of reasons to shoot police that have nothing to do with hate or discrimination. The fact that most of those reasons are already crimes does not mean that we should now make them hate crimes. In fact, that’s a strong reason why we don’t need to make them hate crimes.

    Hopefully, these legislators will get laughed at enough that this bill will quietly die.

    1. As Eugene Volokh has explained elsewhere, “hate crime” laws don’t actually punish you for feeling the emotion of hatred or bigotry. They punish you for SELECTING YOUR VICTIM based on certain forbidden SELECTION CRITERIA. If you commit a crime against someone because he’s a Quaker (for instance), that’s a hate crime even if you like and admire Quakers and only selected him for your victim because you were desperate and you are a weakling and would not be able to win a fight and you knew that he wouldn’t fight back. It doesn’t matter what emotion you felt; what matters is that you used his religion as your criterion for victimizing him rather than someone else.

      1. While that is generally true of “hate crime” laws, that is not how this bill is worded. Mere commission of the crime against a police officer is de facto evidence of your intent to select that victim and counts as presumption that it was for the prohibited reason.

        1. But that’s already the case for the most part isn’t it? Assault on an officer is distinct from assault, for example. It’s already extra illegal to attack police.

  7. Yet most offenses for which a hate crime enhancement is applicable (or being sought) are already illegal activities.

    “Most”? What offenses can get a hate crime enhancements aren’t already illegal activities?

    Alabama Republicans used to understand this and were able to resist writing additional criminal enhancements into state law.

    That had nothing to do with a principled opposition to hate crime legislation, that was just about unprincipled opposition to LGBT folk existing.

    It seems that Republicans in Alabama […]

    sure fooled you, if you think they were ever principled in the first place.

  8. This is a good law. That pesky old first amendment was just getting in the way of things anyway. The sooner we learn to obey and love government, the better our lives will be.

  9. As Professor Volokh has explained several times: the hate crime laws generally do not create specially-privileged classes; rather, they add penalties for crimes in which the criminal chooses his victim by using certain forbidden criteria, such as the victim’s (perceived or actual) religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, or sexuality.

    Instead of making cops a protected class, why not add perceived or actual PROFESSION to the list of forbidden victim-selection criteria? That way, targeting a member of ANY profession because of the victim’s (perceived or actual) profession would be a “hate-crime” subject to additional enhanced penalties. If you attack a cop because he’s a cop and you don’t like cops, or attack a lawyer because he’s a lawyer and you don’t like lawyers, or an opera singer because he’s an opera singer and you don’t like opera, those would all be hate-crimes too. This would have the advantage of adding hate-crime enhancements to criminal charges against right-to-lifers who attack abortion workers.

  10. They’re all in it together.
    When all participants of a “system” are feeding from the same nose-bag, free from competition — and are allowed (by your neighbors and friends — hopefully not you) to
    • Make the laws,
    • Enforce the laws,
    • Prosecute the laws,
    • Hire the prosecutors,
    • License the “defense” attorneys,
    • Pay the “judges”,
    • Build the jails,
    • Contract jails out to private entities,
    • Employ and pay the wardens,
    • Employ and pay the guards,
    • Employ and pay the parole officers,
    One can’t honestly call it a “justice” system. It’s a system of abject tyranny.

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