THE VIEW FROM ALBANY
By State Sen. JIM SEWARD • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Police, firefighters, and emergency first responders are vital to public safety. The brave men and women who work in these fields put the lives of others first and often risk their own well-being. I am appalled by recent incidents in New York City of individuals hurling buckets of water at on-duty police officers. Video of these abuses has spread on the Internet, certain to trigger copy-cat offenses.
This type of disrespect toward our uniformed police officers cannot be permitted to escalate further. To help thwart this behavior, I have joined with my Senate Republican colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation that would make this type of harassment a class E felony.
The new legislation (S.6641) reads in part:
“The men and women who serve and protect our communities as police officers risk their lives every day. Therefore, it is extremely disheartening that there are members of communities harassing these officers with water and at times even assaulting them. Law enforcement in our state deserves better.
“This bill will establish menacing a police officer or peace officer in the second degree as a class E felony. Sadly, the times have changed in such a way where legislation like this is necessary. Nonetheless, we must address issues like this to stop the rise in disrespect and cultural normalcy of assaulting the brave police officers who protect and serve us.”
This is not the first time legislation of this nature has been considered in Albany. In both 2017 and 2018, I helped pass the “Community Heroes Protection Act” in the Senate. The bill (S.1114/A.2962) would have designated crimes that specifically target police, firefighters, and other emergency service workers as hate crimes.
The legislation was inspired by the many brave men and women in uniform who have lost their lives, were injured or targeted simply because of their jobs as protectors of the community. The legislation would classify all crimes against first responders, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel as hate crimes. These offenses are designated as hate crimes only if they are intentionally aimed at first responders based on the profile of their career.
In current law, when a person is convicted of a hate crime and the specified offense is a misdemeanor or a class C, D or E felony, the hate crime shall be deemed to be one category higher than the specified offense or one category higher than the offense level applicable to the defendant`s conviction. Police officers and first responders are not included in the current definition of a hate crime.
Professionals and volunteers who wear a uniform and serve the public have earned our utmost respect and are true lifesavers. The recent surge in attacks on our first responders is sad and disturbing. It is imperative that we stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave men and women and provide any safeguards possible.
Unfortunately, the Assembly never voted on the bill in either 2017 or 2018. This year, with Democrats in charge of the Senate, the bill was not even allowed out of committee for Senate consideration.
As I have said previously, the Albany pendulum has swung toward criminals and away from crime victims and law enforcement. The failure to advance this legislation, to protect police and first responders, is just one more example of the disregard for the men and women who protect us every day.
Along with blocking the “Community Heroes Protection Act”, the Democrats in charge in Albany also prevented several other bills, known as the “Victims’ Justice Agenda” from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. The comprehensive legislative package would reform the parole system to keep violent criminals behind bars without parole and ease the parole process for suffering victims, families and the public.
Moving forward I will continue to stand up for crime victims along with those who enforce our laws and keep our communities safe and secure.
Senator Seward, R-Milford, represents a district that includes Otsego and eight other counties.