In response to a group of Connecticut lawmakers who were promoting House Bill 5743, which would increase penalties for hate crimes and includes several measures strengthening existing hate crime laws, Minority Leader Themis Klarides attempted to point out that the bill does not go far enough because it did not include crimes against police officers and first responders.
While the security of first responders is critical, I strongly disagree with adding such provisions to HB 5743. Hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, religion and gender target vulnerable residents based on who they are, qualities that cannot be changed. One’s profession is simply not the same thing.
The Anti-Defamation League states in its recently published article, “ADL Opposes “Blue Lives Matter” Bill and Urges Senate to Vote against It:”
“[The] ADL strongly believes that the list of personal characteristics included in hate crimes laws should remain limited to immutable characteristics, those qualities that can or should not be changed. Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable … Additionally, ADL is concerned that expanding the characteristics included in bias crime laws may open the door to a myriad of other categories to be added and simultaneously dilute current hate crimes legislation. This bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are better protected under other laws.”
Police officers, specifically, should not be placed within the same category with those individuals who have been subject to outward and systemic discrimination for generations, many at the hands of the police themselves. First responders are very well sometimes targets of violence. That, in and of itself, does not constitute discrimination.
My hope is that our state lawmakers do not fall into the trap of adding first responders to hate crime bills due to not wanting to be seen as “voting against cops.” There are better ways to protect first responders, and existing law may already be doing the job just fine.
Leadership should focus on common sense hate crime legislation that actually targets the victims of these crimes and not, as Klarides is doing, simply try to replicate the flawed “Blue Lives Matter” bills introduced in other states.
Jorge Fernandez resides in Hamden, Conn.