Should killing law enforcement be considered a hate crime?

Since this argument will likely be misconstrued by folks who fail to read the whole entry, let me be clear: I am pro-law enforcement and pro-rule of law.  The targeting of police officers with crime, vandalism, and general hatred sickens me.  Calls for increased penalties and hate crime designation to punish those who kill police ring true to my heart.

But the heart’s leanings shouldn’t take first place when interpreting the law.  When the difficult task of removing emotion from the judicial process is done, it’s obvious that hate crime legislation—whether it’s meant as a deterrent or societal revenge for killing a member of law enforcement, a member of a minority group, or whomever, is not a concept to be embraced by American courts.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” begins the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.  Though some may be born and raised with more opportunity than others, the United States is one of the few nations on the planet in which a man or woman of any color has the opportunity to work for what they desire—that whole pursuit of happiness concept.  Friends who emigrated from India and whose sons and daughters have escaped the bounds of the Merchant class in their native country understand this at a gut level, better than most modern Americans who are, in general, conditioned to exaggerate the weight of obstacles and diminish the benefits of hard work.

It’s the person’s actions, not their title or any trait they were born with, that creates or crushes value in their community.  The vast majority of law enforcement officers give more than they are paid to do.  There are many people in other professions, both inside and outside the public sector, who also give more than they take. The meter reader who takes a moment to chat with a lonely elderly resident on his beat contributes.  The executive who gives time at the Rotary club and allocates some profits to the local ball team contributes.  Doing these things is both expected of a good citizen, and honorable.

A segment of public servants, law enforcement included, hover in that land of wearing the mantle of society’s protection, but see to it that they give as little as possible.   While not necessarily contributing, they’re also not actively destroying.  Their reasons vary from burnout to physical illness and a host of others.  I’m not here to judge their reasons.

Of course there’s the handful of bad apples which today’s anti-cop movement focuses on and attempts to paint most or all officers into, particularly when force is used.  These characters exist in every profession, and every profession has developed ways of identifying and weeding them out. It’s rare that a “bad cop’s” career extends past his or her early 30s.

Consider for a moment if ultimate cop-gone-bad Christopher Dorner’s stalking of his boss’s father had been discovered before his firing.  An officer confronting Dorner in the act of carrying out one of his schemes may well have been faced with the necessity of killing him.  In a mandatory sentencing scenario, the officer acting in a completely justified manner would be subject to a menu of whatever options the law necessitates—maybe a mandatory murder conviction, maybe denial of parole for that conviction (as is the case in Louisiana), and probably a stiff mandatory sentence.

Consider the societal effects of paroling a prisoner who killed an excellent schoolteacher or the town’s only honest car dealer, after a few years served, while retaining the person who murdered an officer leaving the station at 3 PM, having spent the last year avoiding working graveyard shift.  To be clear, I believe both killers deserve never to see the light of day… not just the one who targeted the officer.

I find it strange and uncomfortable to be camping with people like Allison Smith of the Anti-Defamation League on some aspects of her point that professions shouldn’t be added as line items to hate crime legislation.  Profession does not guarantee character.  Nor does any trait a person was born with, and this is where Smith and I depart.

Hate crime legislation has no place in a society where we are all considered equal as humans.  Mandatory sentences reflect a dumbed-down approach to the law in which judges aren’t allowed to judge.  Thinking, including the discomfort of making difficult and informed choices, is part of being an adult.  It’s my hope that we won’t allow our judicial systems to sink further into childishness.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Latest Reviews