On Monday, the National Fraternal Order of Police requested that crimes against its members be officially considered hate crimes, a classification that means harsher penalties for offenders who have targeted cops because they are cops. The union represents over 300,000 police officers.
"Right now, it's a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their skin, but it ought to be a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their uniform as well," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the union.
The call comes as tensions between police and civilians are at a high -- demonstrations have been held across the country in protest of racial profiling practices and unnecessary police brutality. New York has mourned the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a cop, and of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu at the hands of civilian Ismaaiyl Brinsley.
Yahoo News' Liz Goodwin reports:
In general, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has declined since the 1970s, reflecting the fall of violent crime in the United States in general. It's not clear who in Congress would take up the union's call to introduce such legislation. In the past, Democrats such as Gabrielle Giffords of Arizone and Republicans such as Peter King of New York have sponsored union-backed bills.
A hate crime is defined by Congress as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." If local authorities decline to prosecute a hate crime, the federal government can take over, making hate crime offenders more likely to face prosecution."
In 2009, the 1969 federal hate crimes statute was expanded to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation and disability.
"Enough is enough!" said Chuck Canterbury, president of the police union, in a statement. "Congress saw a need to expand the law to protect a group of our fellow citizens who we suspected were being targeted as victims of violence. In the last few years, ambush attacks aimed to kill or injure law enforcement officers have risen dramatically. Nineteen percent of the fatalities by firearm suffered by law enforcement in 2014 were ambush attacks."
"All of these officers died because of the uniforms they were wearing," Canterbury continued. "They were killed because their murderers had one purpose -- to kill a cop."