Policing Hate: The Problematic Expansion of Louisiana's Hate Crime Statute to Include Police Officers

Author:Savannah Walker
Position:J.D./D.C.L., 2018. Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University.
Pages:1413-1445
 
FREE EXCERPT
Policing Hate: The Problematic Expansion of
Louisiana’s Hate Crime Statute to Include Police
Officers
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction ................................................................................ 1413
I. Hate Crime Laws: A Broad Overview ....................................... 1417
A. Defining “Hate Crime” ........................................................ 1417
B. Why We Legislate Hate ....................................................... 1418
C. Structure of State Hate Crime Statutes ................................ 1419
II. Dissecting the Flaws of the Blue Lives Matter Law .................. 1421
A. The Unnecessary Expressive Purpose ................................. 1422
B. The Practical Shortcomings ................................................. 1424
1. Police Officer Status Does Not Fit into a
Hate Crime Statute ........................................................ 1425
2. The Blue Lives Matter Law Will Not Be
Used Effectively ............................................................ 1428
a. Potential Underuse .................................................. 1428
b. Potential Misuse ..................................................... 1432
III. Recommended Solutions ............................................................ 1435
A. Revising the Law: An Imperfect Solution ........................... 1435
B. Repealing the Law: Nothing Lost, Plenty Gained ............... 1442
Conclusion .................................................................................. 1444
INTRODUCTION
On December 20, 2014, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu of
the New York City Police Department were sitting in a parked patrol car
in Brooklyn, New York when a man armed with a handgun approached
from the passenger side and fired multiple rounds into the vehicle,
instantly killing both officers.1 At a press conference that evening, the New
Copyright 2018, by SAVANNAH WALKER.
1. Melanie Eversley, Katharine Lackey & Trevor Hughes, Two NYPD
Officers Killed in Ambush Style Shooting, USA TODAY (Dec. 21, 2014, 9:21 AM),
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/20/new-york-city-police-
officers-shot/20698679/ [https://perma.cc/NN3C-QGF7].
1414 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 78
York City Police Commissioner announced that the shooter deliberately
targeted the police officers “for their uniform and the responsibility they
embraced.”2 The Commissioner pointed to posts on the shooter’s social
media accounts foreshadowing a plan to “put wings on pigs” in retaliation
for the highly protested police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown3
as evidence of the killer’s bias against police officers.4
The outrage surrounding the assassination of Officers Ramos and Liu
was widespread.5 Politicians and protesters alike condemned the
violence.6 Many people, however, believed the shooting was not a
senseless, isolated act but evidence of something bigger: law enforcement
was under systematic attack, a phenomenon politicians hastily dubbed a
“war on cops.”7
In the spring of 2016, Louisiana State Representative Lance Harris
drafted House Bill 953,8 a solution to what he perceived as an intentional
crusade to terrorize police officers evidenced by the murders of Ramos
2. Id.
3. Ismaiiyl Brinsley (@dontrunup), INSTAGRAM (Dec. 20, 2014), archived at
http://gawker.com/cop-killers-instagram-im-putting-wings-on-pigs-today-1673793
374 (last visited Sept. 6, 2016) [https://perma.cc/ZP2C-M8HE]; Ferguson Unrest:
from Shooting to Nationwide Protests, BBC NEWS (Aug. 10, 2015), http://www.bbc
.com/news/world-us-canada-30193354 [https://perma.cc/4FE5-YA3G]; Al Baker,
Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death, N.Y. TIMES (June 13, 2015),
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-
island.html [https://perma.cc/2DXZ-9YR8].
4. Eversley et al., supr a note 1.
5. Id.
6. Id.
7. See, e.g., Steve Benen, Ted Cr uz Shows How Not to Respond to Police
Killings, MSNBC (Sept. 2, 201 5, 8:00 AM), http://www. msnbc.com/rac hel-
maddow-show/ted-cruz-shows-how-not-respond-police-killings (quoting Senator
Ted Cruz , w ho r emarke d t hat cops are “feel ing the assau lt” nation wide)
[https://perma.cc/PW2T-JKW7]; Radley Balko, Scott Walker Couldn’t Be More
Wrong About the Threa t to P olice Officers , WASH. PO ST (Sept. 3, 2015) ,
https://www.washi ngtonpost.com/news/the- watch/wp/201 5/09/03/scott-walker-
couldnt-be-more-wrong-about-the-threat-to-police-officers/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.5
84f49b74c56 (criticizing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s comments on what he
perceives as “a disturbing trend of police officers being murdered on the job”)
[https://perma.cc/77HD-YFQN].
8. H.B. 953, Reg. Sess. (La. 2016).
2018] COMMENT 1415
and Liu9 and a similar murder of a deputy in Cypress, Texas.10 The bill was
termed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, its name being a response to Black
Lives Matter, a civil rights group11 that has been accused of inciting anti-
police violence through its protests of police activity.12 The bill sought to
modify Louisiana’s hate crime statute, which provides increased penalties
for offenders who select their victims based on the individual victim’s race,
age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national
origin, ancestry, or organizational affiliation.13 The modification added
“actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter,
or emergency medical services personnel” to the list of protected
characteristics.14
The bill passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate by a
margin of 33-3.15 Governor John Bel Edwards signed it into law on May
26, 2016, officially making Louisiana the first state to offer additional
protection to law enforcement officers through hate crime legislation.16
9. Elizabeth Crisp, ‘Blue Lives Matter’: Louisiana Legislature Considers
Hate Crime Pr otections for P olice, Firefighters, ADVOCATE (Apr. 26, 2016, 3:26
PM), http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/Legislature/article
_f82c5a03-f31a-5574-bc5b-f1311aa1348f.html (explaining that Representative
Harris cited the murders of Ramos and Liu in his proposal) [https://perma.cc
/MK86-DPLR].
10. See Elizabeth Chuck & James Novogrod, Texas Deputy Darren Goforth,
Slain at Cypress Gas Station, Remembered at Funer al, NBC NEWS (Sept. 4, 2015,
3:19 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/thousands-attend-funeral-
texas-deputy-darren-goforth-n421831 [https://perma.cc/4JKG-TC9B].
11. “Black Lives Matter” began as a protest cry after the 2012 fatal shooting
of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin but now r efers to a
national political group that includes 30 official chapters. See Alex Altman,
Person of the Year, the Short List: No. 4, Black Lives Matter, TIME (Dec. 2015),
http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2015-runner-up-black-lives-matter/
[https://perma.cc/WBX9-USV6]. T he group protests various forms of perceived
racial oppression and injustice, but its largest and most visible protests have been
those aimed at police brutality following the high-profile deaths of several
African-American men at the hands of law enforcement. See id.
12. Richard Perez-Pena, Louisiana Enacts Hate Crime Laws to Protect a New
Group: P olice, N.Y. TIMES (May 26, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27
/us/louisiana-enacts-hate-crimes-law-to-prote ct-a-new-group-po lice.html?_r=0
[https://perma.cc/3T44-MYL6].
13. LA. REV. STAT. § 14:107.2 (2018).
14. Act No. 953, 2016 La. Acts 2038.
15. Perez-Pena, supra note 12.
16. Id.

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