Ruling the Killing of an Officer a Hate Crime

Hate crimes in the US arise from the tradition that Americans have legislative civil, and constitutional protections derived from the rights guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution guarantees equal protection of its citizens. Around 1990, federal states introduced various hate crime legislation that criminalized such crimes and provided for the penalties. The scope of hate crimes was expanded in 2009 when the Matthew Shepard and James Bryd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed. Former President Barrack Obama signed it in 2009, and it became effective in 2010 as it was incorporated into US federal laws. “The law defines a hate crime as any criminal offence against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation (Jacobs, 2010).”

Most recently, killings of law enforcement officers were also considered a hate crime, with Louisiana as the first State in 2016 to add firefighters and police officers in their hate crime legislation. This was necessitated by the increased killings of sheriffs and NYPD officers in 2015 that resulted in racial tension and protests. The killing of Darren Goforth, a ten-year veteran Sherriff at the Harris County office in 2015 by Shannon Miles, was one of the incidents that were ruled to be a hate crime. The attack and shooting were unprovoked because the black male shooter simply approached the Sherriff and shot him fifteen times, repeatedly in his head using a large handgun. Miles was arrested and charged a day after the shooting took place. He was detained without bond and charged with capital murder.

The shooting was compared with other shootings that were perpetrated in 2014 against police officers of the New York City Police Department. Two NYPD officers were killed in 2014 by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley as revenge for the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Garner Eric, after which he committed suicide. This took place a few weeks after a grand jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an NYPD officer involved in Eric Garner’s death, and Darren Wilson, the officer involved in Michael Brown’s shooting. This was followed by protests against police brutality in New York and is also believed to be Brinley’s motivation to shoot the officers to avenge the two deaths.

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Hate crimes against police officers have sparked many reactions in the US by members of the public as well as the leadership. The Former US President condemned such crimes and encouraged the Americans to reject and condemn violence because such actions are not justified. More recently, the police union, outraged by the increasing police killings, have been advocating and pushing for such crimes to be included in federal legislation across the States as hate crimes. Statistics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have shown that about 21.7 percent of police deaths since 2004 were non-accidental and ambush attacks.

In my opinion, hate crimes against police officers are mainly race motivated, especially between the white and black races. It would only be possible to reduce or curb such crimes by first dealing with racisms in the US. This would mean that the equality of American citizens should be upheld to promote peace and stability in the US.

In conclusion, it is important to incorporate police killings motivated by racial differences into federal laws across the States (Levin, 2002). In my view, this is of vital importance because hate crimes have no difference from terrorism that is considered a crime against humanity and condemned across the globe; therefore, hate crimes against law enforcement officers should be accorded the same seriousness and criminalized, with severe penalties in the US.

 

References

Disability Hate Crime and ‘Borderline’ Expressions of Hate. (2015). Hate Crime: Impact, causes and responses, 90-106. doi:10.4135/9781446279694.n6

Jacobs, J. B., & Potter, K. (2010). Hate crimes: Criminal law & identity politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Levin, J., & McDevitt, J. (2002). Hate crimes revisited: America’s war against those who are different. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Lowery, W., Butler, R., & Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2016). They can’t kill us all: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a new era in America’s racial justice movement.

Mail Online. (2017). Police union pushes for cop killings to be included in federal hate crimes law following recent ambush attack in New York City. Daily Mail.

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