In response to the violence that took the lives of five police officers and wounded several others in Dallas, Texas last week, a New Jersey lawmaker is pushing a plan to increase the penalties for anyone attempting or threatening to hurt a law enforcement officer or emergency services personnel.

New Jersey State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Red Bank) is introducing a bill that would make it a hate crime to target a person because of his or her status as a law enforcement officer or an emergency services worker.

“Like Americans everywhere I was just outraged by what happened in Dallas, Texas, where police officers helping to ensure people can protest peacefully and safely were fired upon and killed,” he said. “So we’re going to offer this bill that recognizes that police officers are a special class, if you will.”

Kyrillos said his legislation would recognize that when a law enforcement officer is targeted “because they’re men and women dressed in blue, that they’re going to have the most special and unique protections under our bias intimidation statute.”

State law already gives special status to crimes against people because of their race, their religion or their sexual orientation.

“Now we’re going to add if you’re an emergency responder, if you are a police officer and you are targeted because you’re a hero trying to protect our society, we’re going to make this a hate crime," he said.

He stressed the proposed change would apply to any instance when police or EMS personnel are threatened in any way, even if they’re not harmed.

“The state already has enhanced charges for the murder of a police officer, but now we’re going to more harsh on those who attempt to harm police. We’re going to enhance the penalties for violent acts against cops, against emergency personnel,” he said.

Kyrillos added the message being sent to the men and women in uniform “is that we respect you, we so appreciate what you do, each and every day in towns and cities all across New Jersey. Our message is we will not tolerate the danger a very small group of people are putting you through.

And for anyone thinking about trying to attack a police officer or EMS personnel, the message is equally simple.

“It’s hard to get through to lunatics but to the degree we can, we’re going to ratchet up pressure and the penalty, the punishment on you,” said Kyrillos.

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