On Thursday, Jan. 26, Mississippi senators passed the “Blue, Red and Med Lives Matter Act” in a vote of 37 – 13 to protect police officers and other first responders from being targeted by civilians.
If a civilian attacks an officer, he or she will be charged with hate crime.
Hattiesburg gained national praise in May of 2015 for honoring officers Liquori Tate and Benjamin Deen, who were killed during a traffic stop. The community’s ability to mourn together, quickly prosecute the perpetrators and make the statement that the lives of law enforcement matter was an act that caught the nation’s.
At a time when police brutality and division was trending, we – a southern state – set an example of being protective of those responsible for protecting us.
The Senate’s passing of this bill would have been predictable and seen as necessary in 2015, or even in 2016, after the death of five police officers in Dallas. For the Senate to pass the bill now feels untimely.
According to the FBI’s statistics for officers killed in active duty in 2015, 86 officers died – 45 of those deaths were declared accidental. Out of the 41 remaining felonious deaths, 19 occurred in the south.
According to a WDAM report in 2016, five of those fatalities belonged to Mississippi officers. The news station later revealed that Mississippi is one of the deadliest states for law enforcement.
WDAM interviewed University of Southern Mississippi Criminal Justice professor Alan Thompson in November about the alarming statistics.
“Although we see a relatively low number of deaths in Mississippi, by comparison to those larger states when we look at those deaths based upon the population of the state or more accurately at the number of law enforcement officers in the state, we do see that the risk in the numbers are relatively high here in Mississippi compared to other states,” Thompson said.
Despite this, I still do not believe this bill is necessary. The numbers of Mississippi law enforcement deaths are not high enough for me to believe that there is an active threat against law enforcement in Mississippi at this time.
I do not believe that civilians – especially brown and black civilians – are foolish enough to target officers in 2017. Even if they were foolish enough, it is common knowledge that a lengthy prison sentence for killing, or attempting to kill, a police officer comes with committing the crime.
This bill accomplishes stating the obvious while not offering any real protection for first responders. And as one can tell from the WDAM comments, the bill satisfies conservatives who believe there is a war on police started by the Black Lives Matter movement. Notably, these are the same people who do not believe that police brutality is an issue despite the amount of video evidence and resigned officers who have publicly admitted to targeting predominately black and brown neighborhoods.
According to the Clarion Ledger, African- American senators wanted to be assured of law enforcement being held to the same standard as well and rightfully so. Police suspected of discrimination or wrongful force usually receive paid leave or suspension.
However, a motion by African- American Senator Barbara Blackmon to add language that would hold law enforcement accountable for targeting civilians due to their race failed 15- 34 after Senate Judiciary Chairman Sean Tindell mentioning that the state’s current hate crime law does not exclude officers.
If the bill is passed by the House, it will be effective as law July 1.
All law enforcement officers deserve to be protected; therefore, I do not have a strong issue with their profession being defended under the state hate crime law. However, “blue and red lives” do not seem to currently be in grave danger, but the lives of Muslim immigrants due to President Trump’s infamous executive order now are. And I wish that was something that all Mississippians could agree on.