ILLINOIS — Lawmakers have a plan to keep safe those who serve and protect.. A proposal would make it a hate crime to attack a first responder solely based on their job.
Being a police officer wasn’t something Kenny Winslow always wanted to do.
“I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up not wanting to be the police. I was like every other kid I wanted to be a sports star.”
But the Springfield police chief knew what he was signing up for when he took an oath.
“Every time you leave your home you never know if you’ll return. There’s always a chance you might not come home to your love ones that’s always in the back of your mind,’ said Winslow.
Winslow said a cop has always been a dangerous job. Sometimes it’s a matter of life or death.
“We’re probably the only profession or the only few professions where you tell your children and your family that you love them everyday before you leave. Because you know there’s an opportunity or the chance that it might occur.”
But with recent threats to officers across the country. Lawmakers want to add first responders to the protections under the state’s hate crime law.
“What this will do basically allow our officers to know that if they are attacked that person who attacked them will be held to a higher level, higher standard,” said Winslow.
Under the bill if someone makes a premeditated attack on first responders based on their job they will be charged with a hate crime. The first offense is a class three felony, that can land you up to 5 years in prison. But some say threats come with the job.
“You’re going to be putting yourself in danger for your country and for the citizens and that is the case when you become a police officer, firefighter.”
Julia Donley said unfortunately cops sign up for the risky business.
She said we need to focus more on open dialogues between police and the communities.
“If that’s not what you’re there to do then maybe this isn’t the right field to be in.”
Law enforcement says the bill won’t stop the threats but it will gives officers a peace of mind. Lawmakers tell us they will like to file the proposal as soon as possible. Likely as soon as the fall veto session.
Illinois isn’t the only stating wanting to add first responders. Louisiana passed the law in may making it illegal.
The city of Chicago is also looking at making it a crime. Traditionally, a crime is considered a hate crime if the victim is targeted because of identity-based characteristics such as their race or ethnicity.