Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a new measure that gives additional legal protections to police officers and firefighters as well as enhanced criminal penalties for targeting them, reports The Hill.
The measure, House Bill 838, creates the crime of “bias-motivated intimidation,” in reference to causing the death or serious bodily injury of police, firefighters or emergency medical technicians. Causing more than $500 in damage to any category’s property such as a police car will also be considered an example of the crime, according to The Associated Press.
The crime will be punishable by one to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. The sentence must added to any other criminal conviction and cannot be served concurrently with others. This means that, for example, a case of vandalism that met the definition would mean a sentence and conviction for both the vandalism and the new crime.
The measure also allows officers to sue any person, company or group for infringing on the officer’s civil rights “arising out of the officer’s performance of official duties” or filing a knowingly false complaint against an officer, according to the AP.
Opponents of the measure say it is unnecessary because the state has already stiffened its penalties for assaulting a police officer. The Georgia NAACP call it the “Police Hate Crimes Bill.”
“The Georgia code already includes more than sufficient protections for police officers,” Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, told the AP. “HB 838 was hastily drafted as a direct swipe at Georgians participating in the Black Lives Matter protests who were asserting their constitutional rights.”