Red Wing is believed to be the first city in Minnesota to pass a resolution calling for anyone who harms a police officer to be charged with a hate crime.
The resolution is in response to increased criticism and violence against police officers around the country in recent years, the resolution says. As of Sept. 23, there have been 96 law enforcement deaths in the United States this year – up from 83 at this time last year, the resolution notes.
At the City Council's Sept. 28 meeting, Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman also mentioned an incident at the Minnesota State Fair, where some people involved with the Black Lives Matter protest chanted, "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon."
"These uniforms have made them targets by those who seek to kill or injure law enforcement officers simply because of their profession and commitment to duty," the resolution reads.
Pohlman and City Council member Peggy Rehder requested this resolution after the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) recommended it, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.
The resolution also calls for the police department to honor fallen officers by operating their emergency lights for one minute at 11 a.m. every day for 28 days, starting Oct. 6 and running through Nov. 2.
Rehder hopes this resolution will set standards for others, telling WCCO: "I'd like to see the state legislators do the same thing and make this statewide statement and mean it."
Push to expand federal bias crime laws
The National Fraternal Order of Police is hoping resolutions like these, which are mostly symbolic, will push state and federal lawmakers to expand bias crime laws in the U.S. to include police officers, saying in a letter to President Barack Obama earlier this year police are targeted by their profession. (The last time the federal hate crime law was expanded was in 2009, U.S. News and World Report said.)
Under current law, individuals who are victims of bias crimes – targeted because of their race, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or characteristics identified as sexual orientation – are protected. And those charged with a bias crime are subject to greater penalties, the letter notes.
Law also requires incidents of bias crimes be reported to the U.S. Department of Justice so the agency can collect national data and hopefully use it to deter future crimes, the letter adds.
But some experts are skeptical about FOP's push. They wonder if the protection is necessary or if adding police officers to the classes protected by law would actually change how they're treated, U.S. News and World Report said.
“There isn’t really any need to add police officers to hate-crime legislation and I don’t think it makes sense. I think it's contrary to the concept of what a hate crime is,” Steve Freeman, the director of legal affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, told U.S. News and World Report.
The National Fraternal Order of Police is also pushing for the reauthorization of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, which distributes funding to agencies across the U.S. to purchase bulletproof vests.