In New Jersey it is a bias intimidation crime when one person threatens another based on race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity. Police officers are not currently protected under the statute, but one Garden State lawmaker said they should be.

(David Lentz, ThinkStock)

He said that threats against a cop should be taken as seriously as the crime that often follows that threat.

“Legislation that I am proposing would expand the bias intimidation/hate speech statute to include law enforcement officers. There needs to be consequences for threatening to target and kill a law enforcement officer,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson).

Cops could use all the protection they can get. According the Officer Down Memorial Page 26 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015, including Greg Alia with the Forest Acres Police Department in South Carolina who was murdered by a suspect on Wednesday. Three cops died this year after being assaulted.

“The recent ambushes and assassinations of our law enforcement officers simply because they wear a blue uniform, that demands action. I recognize and respect that freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but when someone is threatening to kill our law enforcement officers there needs to be strict penalties,” Dancer said.

Hate speech would be criminalized when it rises to an actual threat against a cop under Dancer’s plan. He said he would formally introduce a bill when the assembly returns to Trenton after this November’s elections.

“The First Amendment exists precisely to protect the most offensive and controversial speech from government suppression. The best way to counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution,” said a statement on the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey website.

Dancer already introduced another bill (A-3611) that would expand the definition of a terroristic threat to include threatening to kill a police officer.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter at @kevinmcardle1.