Assault on police: the newest hate crime?

The town of Red Wing, Minnesota, has passed a resolution urging that assaults on police be made a hate crime, a position urged for some years by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union. How bad an idea is this? A very bad one indeed, I argue in an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Critics argue that [existing hate-crime] laws in effect play favorites, departing from the spirit of equal protection under law that aims at treating all victims of personal assault as equally important.

Because they seem to put an official public seal on a narrative of oppression, such laws are also lobbied for in me-too fashion by other groups that rightly or wrongly see themselves as oppressed….

Not only are lethal assaults on police declining, I note, but the vast majority of them do not arise from any supposed prejudice or animus against cops, nor do such crimes go neglected and unprosecuted. Besides, most states already allow sentence enhancements on other grounds for crimes against police:

…what would [such a change in law] symbolize? The merely absurd proposition that police in the U.S. today are an oppressed minority group? Or the downright dangerous proposition that the law should step in to chastise and rectify the attitudes of a public that may not be as supportive of police wishes and demands as cop advocates would like?

Read the whole thing. Incidentally, the town council voted last week to let its Human Rights Commission review the resolution, a possible step toward reconsidering it. Some earlier Cato commentary on hate-crime laws hereherehere, and here. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

More links: Star-Tribune original coverage (noting that Red Wing’s police chief approached the council requesting the resolution as a “show of support,” and that Minnesota already provides for sentence enhancements when police are the target of crimes, as indeed do most states); FBI on definition of hate crime; Fraternal Order of Police side of the case; Washington Post; U.S. News; New York Daily News.

One Comment

  • Mr. Olson, I totally agree with your objections to this proposal, however these objections would apply to ANY hate crimes, not just against police. But unfortunately that precedent was already set when SCOTUS upheld hate crimes in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, in 1993. So, if you have hate crime laws at all, then you have to apply them across the board no matter how absurd that is. What would probably happen here eventually is that “occupation” or “profession” will be added as another protected class, in addition to race, gender, etc. So – when someone beats up a taxi driver because he’s frustrated with high fares, it will be a “hate crime”. I almost welcome this; the more absurd the laws get, the more difficult they are to defend, and the greater likelihood they will be dumped entirely. We should punish the crime, not the thought crime behind it.