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By Anders Hagstrom
With Kentucky becoming the 13th state to adopt “Blue Lives Matter” legislation Wednesday, the ACLU is doubling down on opposing the police protections on both the federal and state levels, a spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation Friday.
The Kentucky law makes attacking police a hate crime, and the new Back the Blue Act introduced by Texas Republicans Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Ted Poe would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for crimes against police and introduce the death penalty for killing law enforcement officers.
“Law enforcement are already the most protected class under law,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Kanya Bennett. “There is no need to further criminalize actions against them or increase cops’ legal protection.”
Bennett argued the introduction of mandatory minimums for crimes against police officers would contradict years of bipartisan soft-sentencing reform and only deteriorate community-police relations.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pushed for mandatory minimums since his appointment in January, ordering Department of Justice prosecutors in March to pursue more severe penalties, something both Republicans and Democrats had largely agreed not to pursue under the Obama administration. (RELATED: Massachusetts Could Be The Next State To Reject Jeff Sessions Sentencing Policy)
Many states have shirked Sessions’ calls for harder sentencing, however, moving forward on softer sentencing reforms with emphasis on reducing recidivism.
In May, the Republican-controlled Louisiana House passed a massive 10-bill criminal justice reform package to decrease the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade.
Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bail reform measure in Illinois on June 6 to lower incarceration, and Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation June 5 to reduce Oklahoma’s recidivism rate by matching restitution payments to an inmate’s ability to pay. (RELATED: Jeff Sessions Alone Pushing ‘Tough-On-Crime’ Policy In Country Ready For Reform)
Congress, however, has not been so willing to ignore Sessions, and the ACLU fears Cornyn’s police protections bill will only be the beginning of tougher criminal penalties.
The organization recently joined with more than 60 other justice groups in writing a letter in opposition to a synthetic drug bill raising sentences and granting Sessions more power in prosecuting drug crimes. (Bill Allowing Jeff Sessions To Criminalize More Drugs Meets Massive Opposition)
Both the drug bill and Cornyn’s Back the Blue Act remain in committee, however.
“We just want to educate congresspeople on how damaging these ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bills can be, if you want to call them that,” Bennett said.