Massachusetts lawmakers push to count attacks on police as hate crimes

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Two Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing to classify violence against police as a hate crime, in the wake of the attacks in Dallas and other cities on officers.

State Democratic Reps. Michelle DuBois and Alan Silvia, a former police officer, were going to wait until the next legislative session to unveil their bill -- but filed it Monday after five police officers were killed in Texas, the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9/11.

Silvia told the movation for the bill initially came from the death of Auburn police officer Ron Tarentino Jr., who was shot five times in the back on May 22 during a traffic stop.

“We just want to remind people that hate will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth,” he said.

Massachusetts' current hate crime laws apply to behavior motivated by bias against a person’s “race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

If the proposal to add "employment as a policer officer" is approved, Massachusetts would not be the first state to do so -- Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill into Louisiana law in May which includes a similar provision.

Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Florida have also proposed similar bills.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently filed a bill that would increase the severity of punishments for assaulting police officers, but Silvia said adding them to the hate crimes list “will provide an additional avenue for prosecutors.”

He and DuBois will be testifying on the bill in January. They say they've received support from about 25 colleagues.

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police, meanwhile, has called on the U.S. Justice Department to treat the Dallas attack as a hate crime. President Obama reportedly has since described the attack that way privately.

Still, critics of these state bills have argued that classifying attacks on police as a hate crime is a slippery slope.

Silvia responded by saying it is as much about “education and making people aware that police have a job to do, and that’s to protect and serve the people.”