Texas Governor Proposes Tougher Police Protection Act

July 18, 2016 Updated: July 18, 2016    

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, July 18, announced his proposed Police Protection Act, which would make it tougher on people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers.

Abbott, a Republican, said the proposal comes after two high-profile attacks that targeted police officers—one that left five officers dead in Dallas earlier this month and another on Sunday in neighboring Louisiana that killed three officers.

“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 in a statement.

The proposal would also make it a hate crime for anyone who commits a crime against a law enforcement officer in the state out of bias against police. Abbott will deliver the proposal to the Texas Legislature for 2017, his office said.

“While our state and the nation continue to mourn the heroes lost in Dallas, it is time for us to unite as Texans to say no more,” Abbott added. “The men and women in uniform risk their lives every day to protect the public, and it is time we show them the State of Texas has their back. Texas will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve, and it must be made clear to anyone targeting our law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice.”

Police guard the emergency room entrance of Our Lady Of The Lake Medical Center, where wounded officers were brought, in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, July 17, 2016. Multiple law enforcement officers were killed and wounded Sunday morning in a shooting near a gas station in Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here, sparking nightly protests across the city. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Police guard the emergency room entrance of Our Lady Of The Lake Medical Center, where wounded officers were taken, in Baton Rouge, La., on July 17, 2016. Three officers were killed and three were wounded in a shooting near a gas station in Baton Rouge. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Following the Dallas shooting, Wisconsin became the latest state to float a so-called Blue Lives Matter bill that would make the biased targeting of police officers a hate crime. Outside of Texas and Wisconsin, at least nine other states have floated similar bills, The Associated Press reported.

Under Abbott’s new proposal, it would expand hate crime protections to law enforcement officers, increase criminal penalties for crimes in which the victim is a law enforcement officer—whether it’s a hate crime or not—and will organize a campaign to educate Texans to value law enforcement.

“The recent shooting in Dallas is not the first time law enforcement officers in Texas have been targeted. Our goal is to do everything possible to make it the last,” added Abbott.

Currently an assault on a public servant, including law enforcement personnel, is a third-degree felony. Under the new proposal, the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement officer would increase to a second-degree felony.

Law enforcement organizations welcomed the proposal. 

“The Sheriff’s Association of Texas is very pleased to hear our Governor is behind an effort to protect peace officers across our state,” stated Grimes County Sheriff Donald Sowell, president of The Sheriff’s Association of Texas. “Every Texas Sheriff feels this should be a precedent for the leadership in other states to follow, and we support our Governor.” 

Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, said in the same statement the organization applauds Gov. Abbott’s legislation. “False narratives and irresponsible anti-police rhetoric have put our officers in greater danger than ever before. This is an important step toward protecting those who protect the citizens of this great state.”