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Bill would add law enforcement officers to protected classes

By DEVIN PAVLOU, Alabama Daily News

State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope, this year will try again with legislation to increase penalties for those who commit crimes against law enforcement officers by adding them as a protected class under Alabama’s hate crimes law.

Alabama’s current hate crimes law says “it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability to be secure and protected from threats of reasonable fear, intimidation, harassment, and physical harm caused by activities of groups and individuals.”

Elliott’s bill would add law enforcement officers to that list of protected classes.

Senate Bill 44 would require mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed against law enforcement officers if it “is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the commission of the crime was motivated by the victim’s employment.” Sentences range from 15 years for a Class A felony, 10 years for a Class B felony, two years for a Class C felony and 18 months for a Class D felony.

It is already a capital offense to kill a police officer in Alabama, but Elliott said his bill is intended to protect police officers from other forms of crime.

“This is a broader attempt to protect our law enforcement officers from targeting simply because they are police officers,” Elliott told Alabama Daily News.

Elliott sponsored the same bill last year. It was approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee but didn’t get a vote in the Senate.

Six Alabama Law enforcement officers were shot and killed in 2019, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s office. The unfortunate trend has Alabama lawmakers considering what measures can be taken to address the issue, including cracking down on stolen gun trafficking and increasing support for the state’s mental health infrastructure.

A spokesman for Attorney General Steve Marshall said pre-filed bills are being reviewed and the office couldn’t comment on them at this time.

In 2016, Democrats tried to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the state’s hate crimes law. That legislation did not advance past a House committee.

The legislative session begins Feb. 4.

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