N.J. lawmaker seeks higher penalties, ‘hate crime’ designation for attacks on police

A New Jersey lawmakers wants too designate an attack on a police officer or a first responder as a hate crime. But the ACLU says such a law would be redundant. (AP file photo)

A New Jersey lawmakers wants too designate an attack on a police officer or a first responder as a hate crime. But the ACLU says such a law would be redundant. (AP file photo)

In response to the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas, a New Jersey lawmaker wants to designate attacks on police and first responders as a hate crime.

Sen. Joe Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, said his measure would hike penalties for violence against law enforcement officers.

But Ari Rosmarin, the public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said the bill is redundant.

“If you kill a police officer, you’re facing life without parole. That can’t get any higher,” Rosmarin said. “If you attack or assault a police officer, you’re looking at sentences that are multiple times higher than an attack on a civilian. This is baked into our law already.”

New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Colligan said the hate crime designation could prevent offenders from obtaining a reduced penalty.

“Those cases are often pleaded down, so it would be a more difficult case to plea down than what happens now,” he said.

The proposed legislation would help boost morale for police officers who can feel like they’re targets every day, Colligan said.

“We’re already seeing a decrease in interest in being police officers,” he said. “Just a short five years ago … people were waving at cops with all their fingers.”

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