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Texas Legislation: Attacks On Police Are Hate Crimes

The Texas Senate on May 23 passed a bill that would make attacks on police officers and judges hate crimes.

House Bill 2908 will now go to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for final approval.

If signed into law, Texas state law would recognize any terroristic threat that places a police officer or judge in fear of imminent bodily harm as a state jail felony, according to The Texas Tribune. Such a felony carries up to two years in jail.

Under the legislation, a person who unlawfully restrains or assaults a police officer or judge would be charged with a second-degree felony and would face up to 20 years in prison.

Finally, any crime targeting a police officer or judge that leads to serious bodily injury would constitute a first-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 99 years or life.

The bill comes on the heels of two recent incidents in which police officers and a judge came under violent attack. In 2015, state District Judge Julie Kocurek was injured after being attacked outside her home in Austin. In July 2016, an ambush against law enforcement officers in Dallas resulted in the deaths of six officers. The perpetrator, 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, was killed following a standoff with police.

Soon after the Dallas incident, which took place during a protest against the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Abbott said attacks on law enforcement should be regarded as hate crimes and asked lawmakers to write a bill for him to sign into law.

A statement from Abbott's office said passing such a law would "create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities."

"At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities," Abbott said at the time.

Texas state law defines a hate crime as any offense that targets a person based on his or her "race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference," according to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott is expected to sign off on the legislation once it reaches his desk, in which case the law would go into effect Sept. 1.

Sources: The Texas Tribune (2) / Photo credit: elbert chu/Flickr

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