As a compromise to pass Georgia’s first hate crimes bill, Governor Brian Kemp has signed a proposal into law granting police new protections, a move LGBTQ, racial, and civil rights advocacy groups are criticizing.

HB 838, which Kemp signed on Wednesday (August 5), creates a new offense of “bias motivated intimidation” of a police officer or other first responder, according to the AJC. Anyone found guilty of death, serious bodily harm, or destruction of more than $500 worth of property of a first responder because of their occupation, would face one to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

However, many advocates claim the legislation, which was hastily written, actually weakens some protections for officers while having unintended consequences.

“In their haste to silence Georgians’ demand for police accountability, the state Legislature has produced a severely flawed bill that may substantially reduce penalties for deliberately killing a police officer,” Andrea Young, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told the AJC. “[…]HB 838 was hastily drafted as a direct swipe at Georgians participating in the Black Lives Matter protests who were asserting their constitutional rights.”

Young claims the measure could reduce potential prisons sentences for the murder of a police officer from mandatory life in prison to a maximum of five years. However, the bill also grants officers broader authority to sue people, groups, or corporations that infringe on their civil rights, something advocates worry will affect street protestors.

The bill was introduced by Republicans as a compromise to getting Georgia’s hate crimes bill passed, which enhances sentencing for crimes targeting victims due to their “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.” The passage of the bill was a landmark move—prior to its passage, Georgia was one of only four states without hate crimes protections—but the Georgia NAACP says it is “now-tainted” by the subsequent police protection bill.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, spoke out against the bill on Twitter, claiming that the treatment of employment as a targetable identity is “blatantly offensive.”

“Equating police officers’ employment status with discrimination and violence Black people, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, women, and other marginalized communities face is blatantly offensive and threatens the safety and liberties of the people first responders are sworn to protect,” the organization tweeted on Thursday (August 6).

One Response

  1. J W

    how are cops’ civil rights being infringed upon in any way? the only, and i repeat ONLY people that can infringe on civil rights are members of the government. its the definition of civil rights. protection from the government.

    Reply

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