Dickie Bell files legislation to expand hate crime status to crimes against police, fire, rescue

dickie bellDel. Dickie Bell has filed legislation for the 2017 General Assembly session that would expand Virginia hate crime laws to include police, firefighters and EMS personnel.

House Bill 1398, filed earlier this week, will expand the already existing definition of hate crime for the purpose of reporting hate crimes within the Department of State Police to include acts against persons employed as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical services personnel.

It already includes crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, and ethnic origin.

“According to the FBI, 41 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2015,” said Bell. “These are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, which were targeted because of their uniform. First responders across the Commonwealth make sacrifices for us each day, and we must find better ways to keep them safe.

“Adding police officers and other first responders makes logical sense. Officers recently attacked in Dallas and other areas across the country were attacked not because of who they are, but because of the uniform they wore” Bell said. “I hope that this will give them an extra layer of protection and will serve as a step in the right direction toward ending violence against our emergency personnel. We are seeing Democrats and Republicans across the nation put forth similar legislation, and I hope that Virginia can serve as a leader in this area.”

In May, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to grant police officers protected status. Other states, including Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, are considering similar legislation.

Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, portions of Augusta and Nelson counties, and the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro. He is currently serving in his fourth term.

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