Hate crime legislation currently only applies to attacks based on race, sexual orientation, national origin, and religious affiliation. But this new legislation would classify cops as a protected class, aligning them with ethnic and religious minorities and the LGBT community.
In an interview with the New York Observer, Castorina noted the recent attacks on cops in Baton Rouge and Dallas this past month as a driving force for the bill. He also blamed Black Lives Matter protests for provoking violence against law enforcement.
“It’s based on this climate in this country right now where police officers are being abused and they’re being disrespected, and we’re seeing they have a target on their back, in Louisiana and in Dallas,” Castorina said. “You can envision this happening at a protest, where somebody might throw a rock or a bottle or a punch.”
Even without this bill, New York state law already has strict laws against assaulting law enforcement officials. The current penal code classifies assault against an officer as a Class C felony, but the Blue Lives Matter bill would turn assault into a Class B felony. Similarly, while aggravated assault against an officer is currently a Class B felony, Castorina’s measure would make it a Class A felony. If passed, the bill would lead to longer, harsher sentencing for offenders, and may criminalize protesters and groups like Black Lives Matter.
This is not the only measure New York has taken to safeguard its police officers. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and outgoing NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced a purchase of $7.5 million worth of military-grade equipment for the largest police force in the country. New items included in the massive purchase include ballistic helmets, bulletproof vests, and automatic long guns.
As sponsor of the bill, Castorina has stirred up controversy in recent months. During a debate in May discussing if Roe v. Wade provisions should be included in New York state law, Castorina referred to abortion as “African-American genocide,” and claimed that millions of African Americans have been “murdered” since the Supreme Court case.
Castorina’s bill is yet another in a line of Blue Lives Matter legislation that has been introduced in other states. Louisiana became the first in May to enact such a bill, with lawmakers in Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, and the city of Chicago introducing similar legislation in the following months. Like New York’s, these bills offer hate crime protection to law enforcement, with Louisiana’s going so far as to extend assault to damaging a police car.
Author: Celisa Calacal