Governor Promotes Police Hate Crimes Bill After Fatal Shooting in San Antonio

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has reiterated his determination to make violence against police officers a hate crime after a law enforcement officer was shot dead in San Antonio.

Detective Benjamin Marconi, a 50-year-old police officer, was shot in the head on Sunday after he pulled over a vehicle near San Antonio police headquarters building in a marked vehicle.

Abbott outlined his proposal for a measure to make attacks on officers a hate crime after five police officers were shot dead by a sniper in Dallas in July. He said he is hopeful the measure will become law after the latest killing, reported ABC 13.

A military veteran who had served in Afghanistan carried out the Dallas shootings during a Black Lives Matter demonstration that followed two high profile shootings of African Americans by police officers during stops in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Abbott spoke of the new Police Protection Act in a statement offering his condolences to the family of Detective Marconi. He hopes the bill will be passed into law in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

The Texas governor said attacks against law enforcement officers will not be tolerated “which is why I look forward to signing my Police Protection Act into law – making targeted attacks against law enforcement a hate crime.”

Texas enacted a hate crimes law in 2001. We have noted how hate crime charges have been brought very infrequently in Texas. In hate crime cases, the prosecutor must show a crime was linked to the accused’s bias against a certain social group. These crimes can be difficult to prove and are often used a bargaining tool in criminal cases, rather than being taken all the way to trial.

Hate crimes are defined by the Texas Department of Public Safety as offenses motivated by prejudice, hatred and the advocacy of violence based on race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

The Anti-Defamation League has been a vocal critic of Abbott’s move to extend hate crimes to include law enforcement officers.

Michael Lieberman of the league branded it an unwise idea from a policy perspective. He pointed out most states already penalize attacks against police with harsher sentences for those who carry them out. Killing a police officer is a capital offense in Texas.

The ADL said hate crimes should be reserved for criminals who attack people because of their fixed characteristics such as race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation rather than professions. Usually hate crimes are crimes that intimidate people in vulnerable groups who have been discriminated in the past, the ADL stated.

An upsurge of hate crimes has been reported nationwide since the presidential election. It remains to be seen if more of these crimes will be taken all the way to trial in Texas.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.