New York Senator Terrence Murphy and New York Assemblyman Kevin Byrne announced Tuesday that they are co-sponsoring the “Community Heroes Protection Act”, a piece of legislation that designates attacks against first responders as a hate crime. The legislation is meant to protect firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, and emergency medical services personnel from assaults that are intentionally aimed at first responders. The penalty will be based on the profile of assailant’s career.
Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 68% increase in firearm related fatalies among law enforcement, which brought the total number of fatally shot officers to 64 last year. According to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, four out of five technicians have experienced some form of injury while on the job.
Under the current law, hate crime in a specific misdemeanor or C, D, and E felony is deemed to be one category higher than the specified offense. Police officers and first responders, however, are not included in the current definition of a hate crime.
“Firemen, police officers our EMS techs and other first responders are on the firing line every day,” says Senator Murphy. “They have been targeted not because of who they are, but what they are and what they represent. This legislation sends a very clear message-we will not tolerate attacks on those who protect us.”
Assemblyman Byrne has served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT throughout his career. His close connection to the groups being protected by the legislation makes him proud to sponsor this important act.
“These brave men and women put their lives at risk every day to protect us,” says Byrne. “Now we need to step up and be there for them. This legislation is a no brainer, it is non-partisan, and it will offer added protection to all our first responders.”
Recent history has dictated the necessity for legislation that would hold anyone who attacks a first responder accountable for their actions. Most recently, the murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos during an ambush shooting in December of 2014 remains fresh in the memory of local law enforcement and those who support their efforts.
“I am deeply troubled by incidents in New York and across the country where men and women in uniform have been targeted because of who they represent, when in fact they represent all of us,” stated Senator Patrick Gallivan, a former NY State Trooper and Sheriff of Erie County. “By imposing stiffer penalties on those who perpetrate such crimes, we are sending a clear message that we stand with law enforcement and other emergency personnel who put their lives on the line in an effort to build safer communities for everyone.”
Senator John Bonacic, another co-sponsor of the legislation, issued a statement on the new “Blue Lives Matter” legislation. “The anti-law enforcement rhetoric has reached a level in this country that requires elected officials to act to try and work to protect our local heroes. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation because it will hopefully serve as a deterrent from doing harm to our law enforcement and first responders.”
The legislation has received plenty of support from various heads of New York law enforcement. Jerry DeLuca, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, believes that this will help further the mission to educate and train firefighters and officers for safety. He says, “the Community Heroes Protection Act goes one step further in helping to ensure the safety of those firefighters, police officers and EMS workers who place their lives in jeopardy for the safety of the public.”
“As legislators, it is our obligation to help protect our law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and medical service personnel as they perform their critical duties protecting the citizens of New York State,” says Senator Martin J. Golden, a former New York Police Officer. “Although there will always be danger, I am confident that Community Heroes Protection Act will help protect New York State.”