HB 95 is a disturbing proposal to add law enforcement officers to New Mexico’s hate crimes statute, even though they already have special protection under existing law.
Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, one of sponsors of HB 95, told the Albuquerque Journal that the purpose of the bill is to discourage “anti-police rhetoric.” It is not appropriate to use the criminal code to stop the public from criticizing the police.
This threat to free speech and accountability demonstrates how far away HB 95 is from the true purpose of hate crimes laws.
ADL is at the forefront of local, state and federal efforts to deter bias-motivated crimes, and we are the leading non-governmental organization providing training for law enforcement nationwide. While we recognize the importance of preventing violence against police, adding them as a protected class under the hate crime law is a misguided approach.
The best way to provide special protection for law enforcement officers is to impose enhanced penalties for crimes against them.
New Mexico already has laws triggering higher penalties for attacks on a peace officer without the additional requirement of proving that the attack was motivated by hate.
Serving as a law enforcement officer is not the same as having personal characteristics that are protected by the hate crimes statute – race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, handicapped status, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
These represent immutable characteristics that cannot or should not be changed. They pertain to personal identity, not professional role. Long-standing bias and a history of intimidation based on these traits explain the need for anti-discrimination laws that cover housing, the workplace and public accommodations, and hate crimes statutes.
When a police officer is attacked, public outrage is immediate, prosecution is vigorous and additional penalties under existing New Mexico law are triggered. Law enforcement officers have special protection under New Mexico law, as they should.
The sponsor of HB 95 has acknowledged that its purpose is to discourage “anti-police rhetoric.” This confuses the purpose of hate crimes laws and is a disturbing attempt to threaten free speech.