FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky lawmakers are one step closer to making an attack on first responders a hate crime.
A House judiciary committee voted to approve the bill initially put forth by Representative Kevin Bratcher (R-29) back in July.
“There are attacks particularly on police officers across the country,” Bratcher said on Wednesday. “Simply showing up and doing their job, and they are being targeted.”
Bratcher originally titled the legislation as the “Blue Lives Matter” bill but has since tried to distance it from that name after backlash from a number of groups.
“To say that somebody's occupation needs to be underneath a hate crime law? I can’t change being a black mother, I can’t change being a female,” said Black Lives Matter organizer Chanelle Helm. “You can take off your uniform. You can change your occupation and become something else. “
Right now, KRS 532.031 says a person can be charged with a hate crime if the victim is intentionally targeted “because of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
“Police officers do not fit this bill,” said Reena Parachi, who opposes the bill. “They are not a protected class. They are choosing an occupation. Choosing what faith to follow is not optional, nor is the color of your skin.”
Bratcher says the bill would give judges more leeway and options during sentencing of those convicted of attacking a police officer, firefighter or EMT. If a person is convicted of a hate crime, it can also be used when a parole board hears the case.
Killing a police officer or firefighter is already a capital crime in Kentucky.
“You have a separate trial to determine if there was hate used in the attack,” Bratcher said.
There were only two “no” votes from the committee of 20; Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-44) and Darryl Owens (D-43).
“I’m just trying to figure out how much more punishment this would give to a person found guilty of this,” Jenkins said. “We’ve already done several pieces of legislation to enhance the penalty for someone who would attack, attempt to murder or murder one of public servants.”
The bill will now head to the House of Representatives for a vote.
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