Representative Frank Burns has reintroduced the Blue Lives Matter Bill to state legislation.
The bill would make assaulting a law enforcement officer a hate crime, leading to a steeper penalty in court. It would increase any charge by one step, for example a misdemeanor of the third degree would be made a felony.
Burns initially introduced the bill last summer, but it wasn’t brought forth to the floor for discussion last session. He saw the violence against police over the past year and believes that something needs to be done to protect law enforcement officers. In a press release sent out by his office, Burns said,“This is about as bipartisan an issue as you can get: letting our police, corrections, probation and parole officers know how much we appreciate the jobs they bravely perform every day.”
Though appreciative of the effort, Interim Chief Jeff Janciga of the Johnstown Police Department doesn’t think this will deter someone from attacking police. He explained, “I think in most of these cases, these people felt correct in their hate for police, they felt that they were right. So, adding a charge, calling it what it is, isn’t really going to have a deterrent effect on it. I hope it does.”
Janciga added that the charge of aggravated assault already exists as a felony for someone who attacks police. Therefore, he doesn’t see the need for this addition if the existing charge is used properly. He said, “We have a felony on the books, so doing it for the reason for having a felony grade crime, it doesn’t make any sense.”