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‘Blue Lives’ bill would add cops among hate crime victims

ALBANY -- A state assemblyman seeking to protect police officers against attacks said Thursday he will seek to add cops to the list of groups for which assaults would be considered hate crimes.

The proposal by Assemb. Ron Castorina Jr. (R-Staten Island) would add police officers to the list of victims that includes racial minorities and gay men and women. Under New York’s hate crime law, crimes against members of these groups carry higher penalties.

Killing a police officer has carried the most severe sentences including the death penalty when that was legal in New York. Castorina’s bill would raise the punishment for assaults on police after shootings and attacks on police in Dallas, Baton Rouge and in other cities.

“Protecting the men and women that risk their lives protecting the public every single day is a paramount concern for me,” Castorina said Thursday. “People will now think twice before they assault a police officer with the knowledge that they could be charged with a ‘hate crime.’ ”

The proposal faces little chance in the Assembly dominated by New York City Democrats, most of whom are closely aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement focused on the deaths of African-American men in police shootings.

The Blue Lives Matter movement seeks to better protect police from suspects and protesters. In July, a man who said he was upset with police shootings of African-Americans killed five police officers and injured nine more as they provided security at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas.

The bill drew immediate criticism.

“’Blue Lives Matter’ rests on an outrageous false equivalence that pretends the systemic oppression and violence that African-Americans have faced in America for centuries is somehow akin to the extremely rare incidents in which police officers are targeted with violence,” said Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal and education organization for civil rights.

“While those isolated incidents are no less – and no more – inexcusable than the killing of innocent civilians, they simply are not part of a pattern of violence, and to suggest otherwise by designating them as hate crimes is disrespectful to those who are actual victims of hate crimes,” Warren said in a statement to reporters.

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