Congress Wants More Protections for Cops While Ignoring Police Reform

An “empty gesture” — that is the term that Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Democrat from New York, used to describe H.R. 5698, the Protect and Serve Act of 2018, which creates a new federal crime for targeting law enforcement officers.

“There is no profession more widely protected under federal and state law than working in law enforcement,” Nadler continued as the U.S. House Judiciary Committee considered the bill last week on the eve of Police Week. Protect and Serve, he said, is a “one-sided approach that presents the strong risk of creating a perception of bias against community-based policing concerns.”

So how did this bill pass the U.S. House of Representatives this week by a vote of 382 to 35? And how did it pass with the support of some of its critics in Congress?

The only explanation is that elected officials are intimidated by the police in the same way that many communities and people throughout this country are scared of the police. Police departments and unions wield a tremendous amount of power, so it’s a constituency that few members of Congress are brave enough to go against, especially when “law and order” rules the day.   

But just how tone deaf is Congress?

There is a national conversation right now about the approximately 1,000 fatal police shootings every year. And there is a discussion about Black people and other people of color being policed for living their everyday lives. This disconnect between federal lawmakers and these constituents is evidenced by the Senate’s version of the Protect and Serve Act of 2018, S. 2794, which also creates a new federal crime for targeting law enforcement, with an important distinction. It essentially makes that offense a hate crime and law enforcement a protected class for hate crimes purposes.

The ACLU and more than 40 coalition partners oppose this legislation.    

Giving hate crimes protections to police is “profoundly inappropriate” as “hate crimes laws are intended to extend protection to historically persecuted groups,” the ACLU and coalition partners explain in our letter of opposition to S. 2794.  Hate crime laws were enacted to address the experiences of people who have lived through a history of systemic discrimination based on a personal characteristic, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. 

Law enforcement, however, is not a historically persecuted group. As Radley Balko puts it, police officers “are about as far removed from a vulnerable group as one can imagine.” 

The idea of making law enforcement a protected class for hate crimes purposes is deeply troubling, but the problems with the Senate bill don’t stop there. The bill will criminalize all types of interactions with law enforcement that cause — or attempt to cause — bodily injury. As Balko explains

“[T]hink about a demonstration where police push into a protest line, resulting in pushing and shoving. It would now get pretty easy to start handing out assault charges against the protestors. A politically ambitious U.S. attorney who wants to, say, shut down Black Lives Matter could get a lot of mileage out of this bill.”

And it seems Congress wants to get a lot of mileage out of these “empty gestures” during Police Week. This time last year, the House passed another empty gesture bill, the Thin Blue Line Act, which duplicated existing law that imposes the death penalty for crimes committed against law enforcement, which the ACLU opposed. Last May, the House also passed the Probation Officer Protection Act, which the ACLU also objected to given its expansion of police powers and arrest authority for federal probation officers. 

Congress has got to stop advancing these police union bills with no questions asked while police reform efforts go nowhere. In 2016, the bipartisan, U.S. House Working Group on Policing Strategies was formed because as they put it “our nation’s conscience has been rocked by a series of tragic events that has resulted in the loss of too many lives.” The working group acknowledged that “more must be done to end excessive force” and “strengthen police accountability.” 

Almost two years later, the working group has not advanced a single piece of meaningful police reform legislation, of which there is no shortage. Many of these very same members supported the Protect and Serve Act. The working group has not even offered the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, a long-promised bipartisan bill of interest to both advocates and law enforcement. The working group has been called out but to no avail. 

So again, here we are, another Police Week, and the only nod to improving the relationship between police and community from Congress was a House resolution that passed Tuesday night. The nonbinding resolution, H. R. 285, expressed that “Congress and the President should empower the creation of police and community alliances designed to enhance and improve communication and collaboration between members of the law enforcement community and the public they serve.” 

 In the hierarchy of empty gestures, this has to rank near the top. 

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Anonymous

There was a Washington Post story a few years ago, where the newspaper reported that during a peaceful protest in Washington DC, local DC police officers masqueraded as protesters, then these under-cover cops started a fight. The protesters themselves were peaceful.

Apparently the police officers were trying to discredit and disrupt legal First Amendment exercises against groups they disliked using covert Cointelpro-style tactics. Most police officers are probably good people, but what do you do about the bad-apples that abuse peaceful protesters? To the best of my knowledge, the DC cops were never criminally indicted by the Bush DOJ for violating the federal Title 18 Criminal Code.

Anonymous

Generally speaking bureaucratic "INACTION" is far more harmful and evil, than bureaucratic "ACTION". Most Americans and even most Plaintiffs are very forgiving to police officers and bureaucrats IF they publicly apologize, attempt to make their victims whole again and support reforms.

The problem seems to be that the parents of some if these officers and bureaucrats never taught them to have remorse or show contrition when they wrong other people.

They choose INACTION. Many, not all, government watchdogs choose INACTION also, even some judges. They simply ignore the person they wronged and then place their victim under surveillance trying to catch them breaking the law. Sometimes cops and bureaucrats choose veiled death threats instead if apologies.

This strategy usually leads to a costly ACLU lawsuit or a federal criminal prosecution of the police officer or buresucrat, since cops and bureaucrats refuse to apologize or admit fault.

INACTION is the most harmful tactic by government officials, not what they actually do. Maybe start owning up more when you harm someone!

Anonymous

That is is funny saying Congress is afraid of police. They took that job for power to rule over idiots like you. Everything with police these days has to always be about race. I have seen the videos. 98% of the police are not racist. Some bad police work in a few of the videos. But what you wrote here is pure racism. You want to revive it so you can feel impowered. What a shame.

Dr. Timothy Leary

What To Say When You Encounter The Police:
Good afternoon officer. I am happy to see to that you are so diligently protecting not only the public's life and property, but our civil rights as well. I am glad to see that my tax dollars are being well spent. Now, what can I do for you today?

Anonymous

Here is the simpleness of this bill. It is Garbage. there is no Law for the Law as it is.. we need Laws.. but we need people who have commonsense and respect for the people whom pay there salaries and the people they protect. If you can not stand the heat.. Then stay out of the kitchen as the saying goes. Simply do not put on the badge, about 70% of those that put on that uniform do it because they know they face no consequences and can break the law with no or very little repercussions as most people who are supposed to enforce our laws, let them off with a slap on the wrist, because they say oh Jim is good guy, he didn't mean to shoot that person, they should have just complied...
If the law breaks the law then we have no law.. and you can't just make up a law to protect law breakers who are exempt because they have a badge, this is a quick way to rile a country full of already angry people with a lot of weapons to back up that anger.. This will make them hate those supposed officers even worse.. if the Law is held less responsible than the people they enforce the laws on, that is unfair and chaotic and makes people feel like they get special treatment because the reality is they do.. For those that say Life is unfair..
I heard that all my life, but now is the time we put our money where our mouth is and make it fair. with the same force that is used upon the people that where supposed to be protected and have been simply taken advantage of. Bottom line.. Either the law enforcement changes dramatically in fairness or we stop paying there salaries, regardless of the state of chaos that follows do to this action or further if needed..You are Americans so then act like it.. Land of the Free home of the Brave..
So do something now before we lose the first part of our slogan before we no longer see Free in America anymore. People wonder why others like the NFL kneel during our Anthem i used to as well, but it is because America is not for the people any further but simply for the Government to do as they please and we are letting them. Please.. read why we fought back, why we have a deceleration of independence and look at what it cost each of our families, and please don't make us have to relieve another war on American soil to take back the freedoms we are losing. If you are a respectful officer who treats people fairly and with the respect that you would any other Boss that pays your salaries, and you abide by the laws you enforce then you have nothing to worry about and thank you for doing your job. But for those that are breaking the law, taking advantage of the people you are supposed to protect and treating people as if they are beneath your feet, breaking the laws you are meant to enforce yes i even mean giving someone a ticket for speeding when you just came from a drag race in your cruiser, and you have no respect for the people you are supposed to protect..
Then you have a sad awakening a head of you and expect the same exact treatment in return from all of us that you dish out too.. Why on Gods earth would you want to do this ? You will treat us fair and be held liable for the laws just the same as each and everyone of us that have to live here are every day.. We will not give you extra protection, unless extra protection of the same or greater is offered to us.. Shape up and do your job or fast food is always hiring. You have no need for any further protection or immunity's to the laws because just like a doctor, you knew what the Job entailed when you chose this carrier and when you sign the paycheck we give you..
Remember the Government is not your employer, We the people are your employer. Here is something you may want to live by. "Treat others as you want to be treated"
-Once Proud American!- "Make America Great Again"

Anonymous

Police are there to HELP people as long as you listen to the police and don't run from them you will not be harmed. No police officer wakes up with his family and goes you know what i wanna kill someone just because i don't like them people sit here and play arm chair quarterback when it's really not that simple. Hands up don't shot was a fabricated story that officer was beaten and broke a bone in his eye before he fired his weapon.

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