Kentucky expands Hate Crime Law

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO)--- A Kentucky law recently went into effect allowing violence against police officers, firefighters, and first responders, to be considered hate crimes.

President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Bowling Green and law enforcement officer with BGPD, Sgt. Shawn Helbig is a proponent of the law.

"We've seen a big trend across the United States over the last year to two years, of organizations that are attacking law enforcement," says Helbig.

"The definition of a hate crime is to take action against somebody for who they are, not what they do," he says. "So when you come after a police officer simply because they are wearing a police uniform, that's going after a protected class".

"This legislation covers harassment, any type of menacing, basically a physical act against another human, it covers," he says. "Basically if you're doing it just because they wear a uniform, it can fall under this legislation".

The law does not closely specify what a hate crime is towards officers and first responders, leaving much up for interpretation. however, it cannot be the sole charge and conviction.

"You can't be arrested for a hate crime violation," says Helbig. "You have to be arrested for violating law, then the hate crimes portion comes in in sentencing and after the fact".

"This law helps us keep those people in prison a little bit longer for us," he says.

Though loosely stated, this law does not stipulate that all actions against police officers and first responders are hate crimes.

"We're still the police, we signed up for this job, we know it's a dangerous job, and we take that into consideration when we go into work," says Helbig.

"We signed up for it so we know what we are getting into; so if we are doing our job and something happens, an assault or something like that, that doesn't fall under this legislation".

While in uniform or not, the law applies.

"We have to do something to let the community know, to let the criminals know, 'Hey we are taking this Seriously, and if you want to play games, we are going to act this way'," says Helbig.

"We are here to protect you, we are here to protect the public and to protect all of the citizens".

The law, closely resembling the "Blue Lives Matter" law in Louisiana, is something he does not wish to be called in Kentucky.
Sgt. Helbig says he wishes to see it properly called, a hate crime law, so as not to create a sense of difference between the worth and value of officers lives, and the general public.

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