Targeting a police officer, firefighter, or EMT in Louisiana is now considered a hate crime. On Thursday Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a "Blue Lives Matter" bill that made the state the first to add those professions to race, ethnicity, religion, and other areas traditionally covered by hate crime laws, CNN reports. "The men and women who put their lives on the line every day, often under very dangerous circumstances, are true heroes and they deserve every protection that we can give them," said Edwards, a Democrat whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were sheriffs and who has two brothers working in law enforcement. The bill passed the state Senate by a 33-3 vote and sailed through the House 92-0.
The expansion of the hate crime law was cheered by law enforcement groups, though critics noted that violence against police officers is close to an all-time low and those who target cops already face stiffer penalties, the New York Times reports. Jim Bueermann, a former police chief who's president of the Police Foundation research group, says it's good that the law "can reinforce the notion that hatred of a group because of who they are has no place in our society," though he warns that the law's supporters may find it has unexpected consequences. "At some point, someone might suggest that abortion physicians should also be protected," he says. "That if you are hunted down because of your profession, whatever the profession, that should be a hate crime."