With law enforcement fatalities on the rise, legislators in Missouri are taking steps to protect police in our state.
Rep. Marsha Haefner is sponsoring HB 57, which "adds to the list of hate crimes certain offenses committed against law enforcement officers and first responders when the offenses are committed because the person is a law enforcement officer or first responder."
According to a report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose to their highest level in five years in 2016 when 135 officers killed in the line of duty.
"I just wanted to send a message to the police officers, first responders that we do stand behind what they do for a living," Rep. Haefner tells ABC 17 News. "We appreciate that they are the ones that keep our society orderly and that when someone knowingly commits a crime against them because of what they do for a living, that it should have a stronger penalty."
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton tells ABC 17 News that he's in full support of any legislation that helps protect law enforcement.
"I would fully support it. Where I come from--killing an officer is like killing somebody's who's under the age of 5--it's a capital murder. It's a capital offense and the death penalty," Burton says. "Some of the people we've seen over the past few years executing police officers while they sit in their police car--that's what they deserve. And so, I fully support the state looking into something like that."
Haefner says she hopes the legislation will send a message to law enforcement that the state of Missouri stands behind them.
"I want our law enforcement and first responders to know that this legislature does stand behind them 100 percent and there is no tolerance for civil disobedience that's targeted at them personally,"
Other pre-filed legislation related to law enforcement includes:
HB 180: "Designates the week beginning on the second Saturday in June as "Law Enforcement Recognition Week"
HB 228: "Establishes the Blue Alert System and the Blue Alert System Oversight Committee to assist in the identification and location of any person suspect of killing or seriously wounding a law enforcement officer."
HB 273: "Increases penalties for certain crimes against law enforcement officers and emergency responders."
HB 302: "Establishes the offense of intentionally targeting a law enforcement officer and creates a Blue Alert System."