The legislation, officially named SB-2469, will see enhanced penalties for those who commit assault on emergency services personnel, as hate crimes are penalized at a higher level than general assault. Previously, hate crimes were limited to race, gender, religion and nationality, and the new bill expands the definition to include law enforcement and first responders, including firefighters.
"We want to send a message to everyone in America and the whole world that if you come to Mississippi and you intentionally assault, you try and kill or you unfortunately kill an officer, you will receive the maximum penalty that we can possibly issue to you," said Mississippi Senator Philip Moran, one of the two authors of the bill.
According to current law, a person found guilty of killing a police officer can be punished by death. The new legislation will add years to the prison sentences of those found guilty of aggravated assault against police officers, according to the WLOX report.
Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Jennifer Riley-Collins strongly opposes the bill, saying it is both unnecessary, in terms of reducing assaults on police officers, and does not make officers any safer.
"Statistics show that violence against police is down. There are already severe, enhanced penalties for assaults on police officers in Mississippi. This bill, and others like it, prioritizes police over people," she said.