The police are not the only ones that need protection.
That’s what I thought when Gov. Greg Abbott proposed a law called the Police Protection Act, which would consider assault on a police officer a hate crime. It is already considered a felony, which means if the law is passed, the punishment can escalate from a third degree felony to a second degree felony.
That can mean double the prison sentences and double the fines.
This bill is hot off the heels of the recent mass shootings against police officers in both Baton Rouge and our very own in Dallas. One of my friends lives on the street where the Dallas shooting took place. Even though I’m miles away, I still feel the hurt very close to home.
“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Abbott said. “Texas will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve, and it must be made clear to anyone targeting our law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice.”
Justice. I wish the word meant as much to others as it does to you, Mr. Abbott.
Since 2011, over 650 officers lost their lives in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Some were responsible, courageous heroes who were honestly fulfilling their job, while others shifted the law to their own crooked, selfish benefits. Regardless of whichever they were, they died wearing the badge and navy blue on their chest. There were no doubt many tears shed at their loss.
While that is a staggering number to look at, it’s nothing compared to the 1,152 civilians killed by police officers in 2015, 102 of whom were unarmed black men. And that’s only for one year. The Centre for Research on Globalization estimates that you’re nine times more likely to get killed by a police officer than a terrorist.
I have no doubt that some, maybe even most, of those casualties were real threats that needed to be handled seriously, but Alton Sterling was killed while already pinned down on the ground. Philando Castille was shot for telling the officer he was carrying a licensed gun. Charles Kinsey was also shot, despite being unarmed, laying on his back, holding his hands in the air while trying to help an autistic patient. Those are three accounts that we know about. I know they are not the only ones.
Why do you think these attacks happened in Baton Rouge and Dallas? No civilian lives were lost in either location. These were clear, targeted attacks against our law enforcement. They weren’t specific to race or ethnicity. They were specific to the fear of the color navy blue.
I dare you to be better than fear.
Abbott initiated this act because of his fear for our police officers. I understand and appreciate that sentiment very much, but it has caused him to focus on the wrong side of the problem. Police killers are not the problem. Police perception is the problem, and all of these problems have stemmed from irresponsible officers who have unfortunately been put front and center to represent all of our police force.
These crooked officers, of course, do not represent our whole police force, but that isn’t the point. If Abbott truly cares about our officers, it would be more productive to file a new law focusing on holding officers accountable for brutality and misconduct. If these crooked officers aren’t held responsible for their misdeeds, how are we expected to trust them?
Of course blue lives matter. Of course black lives matter. But both movements right now are focused on dismissing the other. Until we come together to truly understand that all lives matter, then no lives matter.
– David Dunn
Originally published in The Shorthorn.