Hate Crimes Could Include Law Enforcement, in Missouri

police lights

Missouri representatives are considering House Bill 57, which would make a targeted crime against law enforcement and first responders a hate crime.

Over his career, Webb City Police Chief Carl Francis says he’s seen cases ranging from simple harassment to assaults of police officers.

“I’ve seen cars being keyed, cars being egged, vandalism to property that types of things,” Francis said. “I’ve had minor assaults even in my direction.”

But even if it’s a direct result of being a police officer, he doesn’t necessarily want these types of offenses to be considered hate crimes.

“I think there’s gonna need some analysis and some research to see if we’re not creating a bigger problem than what we have right now,” Francis said.

Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan went farther, calling it unnecessary, “feel-good legislation”. Saying there’s an implied risk to law enforcement and tough laws already in place for attacking an officer.

Representative Charlie Davis says he plans to support the bill, but wants to see the scope of it narrow.

“I believe it should be strong physical assault,” Davis said. “I think it’s gonna be something that passes this next year. But I think it is something that we need to make sure that people don’t abuse.”

“It kind of covers actually property damage, weapons charges, third-degree assault, tampering. It covers a wider variety than generally just the assault code section,” attorney Elizabeth Turner said. She says as the bill is written, any crime that is targeted at a law enforcement officer because of their job could be classified as a hate crime regardless of it’s severity.

The bill doesn’t just include law enforcement officers. It also covers fire department and emergency medical personnel.

“I absolutely support the spirit of the bill,” Francis said. “I think any time you can aggressively prosecute any attack on law enforcement or public safety in general it’s is a good thing. Whether or not attaching a hate crime to it.. aggressive prosecution in and of itself would certainly constitute something useful to put the bad guy in jail.”

The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police supports hate crime legislation for first responders, citing the 60-plus officers shot in the state this year.

There is a second bill being considered which is almost identical to HB 57.