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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Columns

Police Protection Act: Punishing undermines safeguarding


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently proposed the Police Protection Act, which increases the severity of punishments against attackers of police officers.

“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, ” Abbott said, citing the recent Dallas ambush. “Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities.”

The law is a step in the wrong direction.

First, it would fail to deter future acts similar to Dallas, in which Micah Xavier Johnson fatally shot five police officers during a peaceful protest. He later explained his desire to kill white officers in light of recent incidents where black men were killed by police.

In Texas, the murder of an officer can qualify for the death penalty. This veteran knew that his actions would justify it. Ramping up the punishment would not only be unfeasible, it would not do anything to prevent such ambushes.

Individuals like Johnson, who are motivated by an irrational revenge-seeking passion, will not be deterred by retributive justice. To assess this phenomena, the Dallas Morning News ran an editorial on Dec. 2, 2007 that looked at the effectiveness of increased penalties against violent crimes.

“The South executes far more convicted murderers than any other region, yet it has a homicide rate far above the national average,” the editorial said. “Texas’ murder rate is slightly above average, despite the state’s peerless deployment of the death penalty. If capital punishment were an effective deterrent to homicide, shouldn’t we expect the opposite result?”

Increased penalties against violent crimes, and more specifically hate crimes, will not in fact prevent future attacks.

Inefficacy isn’t the only problem with Abbott’s plan. One of the main reasons behind Black Lives Matter’s existence is that police are not held accountable for their actions and they are often given privileges that give them a superior position in society.

Police officers serve and protect the community, something they can only fulfill when those they protect feel safe around them. In a time when tensions between the police and African-American community run high, this proposal further divides the groups and reduces the chance of rebuilding trust.

The one thing that may work is Abbott’s proposal to organize a campaign to “educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities”.

Increasing awareness and communication with members of law enforcement will bring greater protection to the public, whom officers protect, but increasing the penalties will do nothing.

Columnist Praneeth Kambhampati is a biomedical sciences freshman and can be reached at [email protected]

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