A new bill was signed into law in the state of Louisiana last week, the first of its kind to add a person’s occupation as a characteristic to be protected against discrimination.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards passed the law in response to increasing attacks against police officers and other first responders.

Dubbing the movement “Blue Lives Matter,” the bill aims to expand on current guidelines for what constitutes a hate crime.  Previously a hate crime has been defined as one in which the rights and personal safety of an individual were compromised due to race, gender, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

The new legislation will now allow increased charges to be brought in crimes committed against police or other rescue personnel who are targeted solely because they are performing their duty.

In recent years, nationwide attention has been focused on shootings of young black men by police that have incited rioting and looting and spawned the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  Police officers have since been walking a fine line between protecting their communities against criminal activity and being accused of discrimination while performing their duty.

Following the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” group and their targeting of police officers for alleged discrimination, the “Blue Lives Matter” movement was formed to bring attention to the needs of protection of law enforcement.

The movement aims to focus on helping what has become a new minority — our police and first responders– and to shed light on the double-standards that are often promoted by hate groups .

In addition to high-profile cases, there has been an increase of attacks against law enforcement across the nation.  Expanded hate crime legislation in Louisiana was introduced following the ambush attack of a Texas police officer, for no other reason than growing hatred of police officers.

Louisiana Representative Lance Harris introduced HB 935, and spoke about the need for expanded hate crime guidelines to include a person’s occupation following the attack against Texas Deputy Darren Golforth.

CNN reports:

“It looked like it was strictly done because someone didn’t like police officers, like a hate crime,” Harris said, adding that including officers and first responders to the hate crime statute made sense because the existing law already is broad, covering attacks because of the victim’s race or gender or affiliation with certain organizations.

“In the news, you see a lot of people terrorizing and threatening police officers on social media just due to the fact that they are policemen. Now, this (new law) protects police and first responders under the hate crime law,” Harris said, adding that he considers legislative action necessary because the crime is “done strictly out of hate for the officer and his uniform.”

Although first responders put their lives at risk for the protection of all citizens, not everyone is in agreement with the bill.

“Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, a regional director at the Anti-Defamation League.

Padilla-Goodman said her organization supports enhanced penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers, but she said the law “weakens the impact of the Hate Crimes Act by adding more categories of people who are already better protected under other laws.”

“We are not happy that it is being signed into law.”

Police forces nationwide have had to undergo new training and implement procedures to protect themselves from formal discipline — or even criminal charges — being brought against them for simply going to work each day.

Record numbers of cities and towns are seeing a dramatic decrease in recruits entering law enforcement.  Once only deterred by low pay and the dangers of the job, those looking to enter law enforcement are now faced with hatred and mistrust for the entire occupation, which has hit a fever-pitch due to the outcries of groups like “Black Lives Matter.”

At a time of increased awareness of protecting the rights of every citizen, our law enforcement personnel are finding their right to do their jobs is being taken away.

It remains to be seen if other states will follow Louisiana’s lead in expanding hate crime laws to protect our first responders.  For now, those who protect and serve are looking for protection so they may continue to serve every citizen.