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New Georgia Law Criminalizes ‘Bias-Motivated Intimidation’ Against Police

Atlanta, GA – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed off on legislation on Wednesday that will provide law enforcement officers with additional legal protections.

Critics argued that the governor’s passage of HB 838 was tone deaf, especially considering the protests and marches against “police brutality” that have been taking place throughout the nation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

But Kemp, who signed off on the measure on Aug. 5, said he did so because he has attended too many funerals for law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and we must act,” he said, according to WXIA.

“While some vilify, target and attack our men and women in uniform for personal or political gain, this legislation is a clear reminder that Georgia is a state that unapologetically backs the blue,” Kemp continued.

HB 838 established “bias-motivated intimidation” as a new criminal offense within the state of Georgia, according to The Washington Post.

It will be applied in cases in which a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or emergency medical technician are killed or seriously injured as a result of their “actual or perceived employment as a first responder,” according to the news outlet.

The new offense would also apply in cases where an offender targets first responders and causes over $500 worth of damage to their property, The Washington Post reported.

Anyone convicted under the new law faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

The crime must be charged in addition to another criminal conviction, and the resulting sentence must be served consecutively, The Washington Post reported.

Each violation must be charged as a separate offense.

The law also allows law enforcement officers to sue those who knowingly file false reports against them or who infringe on the officer’s civil rights in connection with “the officer’s performance of official duties,” The Washington Post reported.

Kemp said the new law was a “step forward as we work to protect those who are risking their lives to protect us,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young slammed the legislation and complained that state code “already includes more than sufficient protections for police officers,” according to The Washington Post.

“HB 838 was hastily drafted as a direct swipe at Georgians participating in the Black Lives Matter protests who were asserting their constitutional rights,” Young declared.

The ACLU further argued that the new law could unintentionally reduce potential penalties for those convicted of killing law enforcement officers from a mandatory life sentence to the maximum five-year sentence established under the new offense, The Washington Post reported.

Proponents of the measure disagreed with the ACLU’s assessment of the purported loophole.

State Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta) said the measure was too rushed and “doesn’t have good intent,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“There could have been a better way to increase police protections – if they were needed and I’m not saying they were – in the next legislative session instead of rushing this through,” Jones argued.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said he is disappointed that backing the police “has become a partisan issue,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“We value and stand with the men and women who wear the badge in Georgia, and House Bill 838 demonstrates that unequivocally,” Ralston said.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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