Tensions regarding race and violence by and to police have made it a volatile, emotional time in our history. Some of you may be personally impacted by events tied to the fights of “Black Lives Matter” and the twist on that slogan, “Blue Lives Matter.”
Massachusetts legislators are taking the recent incidents of violence against police officers seriously. Concern over the safety of police men and women has inspired some to support a bill to reclassify crimes committed against police officers as hate crimes. This suggestion does not come without disagreements.
First, let’s lay out what a hate crime is in Massachusetts. Sources define someone as having committed a hate crime if he or she “commits an assault or a battery upon a person or damages the real or personal property of a person with the intent to intimidate such person because of such person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”
We ask you, what do you think of the issue? Based on that legal definition of hate crime in Massachusetts, does adding police officers to the groups of people who can be victims of such offenses make sense? It looks as though the definition of the offense would have to change.
It matters whether something is classified as a hate crime to the men and women charged with the offense because the classification increases penalties if a charge results in a hate crime conviction. Someone convicted of that offense in the state could have to serve more time in a correctional facility and pay a $5,000 fine.
This proposal will be further debated during the state’s next legislative session. We will keep you updated regarding its progress and the debate over the criminal law matter.