2 MN towns: Attacks on cops should count as hate crimes

Two more small towns in Minnesota have unanimously passed resolutions asking to expand hate crime laws to cover violence against police officers.

The city councils of both Cambridge and Austin passed resolutions on Monday night. The national Fraternal Order of Police has called for expanded protections for police under hate crime laws, arguing that police are being targeted for violence.

Austin Council Member Steve King said the council wants hate crime laws to encompass the occupation of law enforcement because "it seems like it's been a little bit of an open season on law enforcement."

"If people, whatever they're hating at the time, if it's a race or gender or police officer, it's killing just for the fact that it's a hatred driving it," King said. "Let's make it consistent across the board, whether it be occupations, race or gender."

The Austin resolution notes that "there has been an unfortunate, growing disrespect for law enforcement by some that don't appreciate their proper authority." It argues that officers "have made them targets by those who seek to kill or injure law enforcement officers simply because of their profession and commitment to duty."

The city's resolution will be forwarded to President Barack Obama, the area's congressional and legislative delegations and Gov. Mark Dayton.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

People who assault or kill law enforcement officers already face enhanced penalties. But Cambridge City Council Member Tiffany Kafer said that city's resolution is intended to show support to the city's officers.

"Anything we can do to show our officers in this time of crisis that we support them and notice the increased violence against them, I believe is warranted," Kafer said.

Both council members said there have been no incidents in their cities where officers were targeted for violence, but that the resolution was spurred by incidents across the country where they say police officers were targeted.

The Officers Down Memorial Page estimates that about three dozen law enforcement officers have died after being shot or assaulted in 2015. The most recent killing of a law enforcement officer in Minnesota occurred on Sunday when Aitkin County Sheriff's Office Investigator Steve Sandberg was shot to death while guarding a patient in a St. Cloud hospital.

The city of Red Wing passed a similar resolution earlier this month, but voted to reconsider the language in the motion at the city's most recent council meeting, saying the issue had divided the city. Red Wing City Council Vice President Peggy Rehder said during that meeting that she heard from people "proud to see the city standing up for police, not bashing them."

A handful of other cities across the country have passed similar resolutions. They come at a time when law enforcement officers are facing increasing scrutiny for use of force and misconduct allegations.