State representative pushing for added protection for law enforcement, first responders

Death penalty for first responder killers

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Alabama law enforcement officers have been the target of gun violence recently.

Several officers have been shot or killed in Auburn, Birmingham, Mobile and Selma.

Now, there’s work to add protection to law enforcement officers and first responders. Under existing law, the murder of a first responder is not a capital offense. This bill would change that. First responders include, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency medical providers.

Heath Boackle, spokesperson for the FOP, said its time medics have an added protection.

It could be an added layer of protection for law enforcement officers and responders.A state representative wants to see stiffer penalties for anyone who kills an officer or first responder.
It could be an added layer of protection for law enforcement officers and responders.A state representative wants to see stiffer penalties for anyone who kills an officer or first responder. (WBRC)

"It’s always been a concern for us as law enforcement, public safety and even first responders. If you remember back a few years ago, there was a paramedic that was with the fire department in Birmingham. He was attacked. We’ve always tried to lobby for these types of things,” said Boackle.

The push goes a step further by making a murder of a law enforcement officer or first responder on duty automatically eligible for the death penalty by adding it as aggravated circumstance.

"Just like what happened with the officer in Selma where he was ambushed, when these things take place at the public, and these people wanting to cause harm to first responders, they need to understand what the actual circumstances are going to be,” Boackle said.

State Representative Chris Sells of Greenville sponsors the bill. He said it’s been the works for several years after the rash of police murders in the country.

Now it’s hitting close to home.

It could be an added layer of protection for law enforcement officers and responders.A state representative wants to see stiffer penalties for anyone who kills an officer or first responder.
It could be an added layer of protection for law enforcement officers and responders.A state representative wants to see stiffer penalties for anyone who kills an officer or first responder. (WBRC)

“I think they are putting their life on the line for us. So, I think we should stand up a little more for them than what we're doing. The main thing I'm trying to do if you do something to these people because they are police officers, we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,“ said Sells.

Sells has pushed similar legislation last year. The bill last session made it through the House and was the next bill on the calendar in the Senate, but the session ended before they could get to it.

Sells said he's already heard positive responses this time around.

“I hate to say it, but the more this happens the more people understand that we need it. I think it was a shame we couldn’t pass it up last year, but I do think we will get past this year,” he said. “I’m glad to see at the least it’s going to be discussed because I think that those that are in public safety, first responders in general, that is out there serving the public and someone is trying to take their life, it needs to be looked at seriously."

The ACLU released the following statement about the proposed law:

The ACLU of Alabama opposes this legislation. The death penalty is already a flawed, broken process that hurts Alabamians, their families, and their communities. Expanding the number of aggravating factors that would subject a person to the death penalty does nothing to improve community relations, and it is unlikely to prevent future violence or keep our cities safer.

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