Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joins push to add police to hate crime laws

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during the opening of the Texas Republican Convention Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is joining a growing number of state lawmakers wanting to make attacks against police officers a hate crime.

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Abbott said Monday he will ask the Texas Legislature to pass a bill next year that adds police officers to the list of protected classes under the state's hate crime law.

"At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the State will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities," Abbott is quoted as saying in a press release."While our state and the nation continue to mourn the heroes lost in Dallas, it is time for us to unite as Texans to say no more. The men and women in uniform risk their lives every day to protect the public, and it is time we show them the State of Texas has their back. Texas will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve, and it must be made to clear to anyone targeting our law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice."

Governor Abbott's Police Protection Act includes the following proposals: Extend hate crime protections to law enforcement officers; increase criminal penalties for any crime in which the victim is a law enforcement officer, whether or not the crime qualifies as a hate crime; create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities.

His announcement follows the recent fatal shootings of five officers in Dallas and three others in Louisiana.

Louisiana became the first state in May to extend hate crime protections to police. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Wisconsin and other states have floated similar proposals.

Abbott says Texas "will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve."

Abbott also wants to strengthen penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers even when the incident wouldn't qualify as a hate crime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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