Senate Passes Community Heroes Protection Act

Bill Increases Penalties for Those Who Target Police, Firefighters and Other Emergency Workers

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) says the New York State Senate has approved the “Community Heroes Protection Act.” The bill (S1114A) would designate crimes explicitly made against law enforcement and first responders punishable as hate crimes and is co-sponsored by Gallivan, a former New York State Trooper and Sheriff of Erie County.

“Every day, police officers, firefighters and other first responders put their lives on the line in order to protect our communities,” Gallivan said.  “Those who would target these brave men and women must be held accountable for their despicable and hateful acts.  This legislation will send a clear message that we will not tolerate attacks on our community heroes and that we stand by those who serve and protect the citizens of New York.”

The measure was inspired by the many brave men and women in uniform, who have lost their lives, were injured, or targeted simply because of their jobs as community protectors. A recent study found that 135 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2016, the highest total since 2011. Of those killings, 21 came in ambush-style shootings – the highest total in more than two decades.

The Community Heroes Protection Act classifies certain crimes against first responders, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel as hate crimes. These offenses are designated as hate crimes only if they are intentionally aimed at first responders based on the profile of their career.

In current law, when a person is convicted of a hate crime and the specified offense is a misdemeanor or a class C, D or E felony, the hate crime shall be deemed one category higher than the specified offense or one category higher than the offense level applicable to the defendant’s conviction.  Police officers and first responders are not included as victims in the current definition of a hate crime.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr. (A2962A). 

The bill’s expected passage today coincides with the annual Police Officers Memorial Ceremony to recognize police officers of New York State who died in the line of duty. Forty new names were added to the New York State Police Officers Memorial’s Roll of Honor this year.

In addition, the Senate also passed a bill (S1980), sponsored by Senator Gallivan, that would create a state trooper highway memorial task force to provide for the recognition of state police who have died in the line of duty.