Legislation eyed to make attacks on cops hate crimes

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

One day after a Thursday night shooting that killed five Dallas police officers and wounded seven, a Michigan lawmaker says he will introduce legislation that would treat attacks against first responders as hate crimes and could lead to tougher sentencing guidelines.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Kowall said he would introduce the “Uniformed Lives Matter” legislation when the Senate returns to session in September after summer break. The legislation would cover law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.

“Last night’s cowardly, murderous attacks on Dallas law enforcement officers represents an unconscionable act of aggression,” the White Lake Republican wrote in a statement Friday. “The brutal slaying of these police officers while they were attempting to protect peaceful protestors of the Louisiana and Minnesota incidents cannot be tolerated. These premeditated attacks, combined with the tragic events of the past week, illustrate we have much to do in order to make our nation safe for all members of society.”

Just days before the Dallas shooting, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed African-American men during police incidents.

In Dallas, a man identified as Army veteran Micah Johnson, 25, is suspected of shooting officers during a protest. According to officials, Johnson, who was killed by Dallas police after the attack, refused to surrender and told authorities he was upset about the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. He said he wanted to kill whites, “especially white officers,” officials said Friday.

Kowall, a former public safety director for White Lake Township, said tougher sentencing guidelines could result from the legislation. The language is currently being drafted.

“It would be a case-by-case scenario,” he said. “There could very well be tougher penalties for attacking law enforcement personnel.”

The legislation could provide a deterrent for some potential violators, said Detroit Police Officers Association president Mark Diaz.

“Living in the real world, the unfortunate reality is when a person is willing to take the life of another or act out in a violent way generally speaking that person is not considering the repercussion of their actions,” he said. “There is the hope that in any way it might deter a person from engaging in such activity. We need to offer our law enforcement officers every level of protection we can.”

Kowall said he also plans to pursue a more aggressive time line for body cameras for police officers in Michigan.

“Until we have the backs of the dedicated men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for our safety, we will be unable to protect any other members of our society from the threat of hate crimes,” Kowall said.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

The Associated Press contributed.