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Wisconsin legislator David Steffen to introduce "Blue Lives Matter" bill

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Posted at 11:19 AM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-11 12:40:00-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin legislator is introducing a "Blue Lives Matter" bill to make targeting law enforcement officers a hate crime in the wake of the Dallas shooting that killed five officers last week.

Rep. David Steffen, a Green Bay Republican, announced his proposal Monday, adding Wisconsin to a growing list of states discussing similar bills.

Louisiana became the first state to enact such legislation in May, allowing prosecutors to seek stronger penalties when police, firefighters and emergency medical crews are intentionally targeted because of their professions. Lawmakers in at least nine other states and at the federal level have floated similar proposals.

Activists are criticizing the growing effort, saying professions don't belong alongside the other characteristics protected under hate crime laws, like a victim's race, religion or disability.

Steffen says anyone who targets officers solely because of their profession should also face "serious penalties." He says the legislation sends a clear message that the "despicable attacks" against officers throughout the country won't be tolerated in Wisconsin.

"It felt like the appropriate thing to do to bring this forward," says Rep. Steffen, "to begin to bring public awareness, and support, as we as a state show our support for Wisconsin law enforcement."

Rep. Steffen says he was approached by two police officers earlier this year asking for the bill.

"With hate crimes, whether it's against a race, an ethnicity, sexual orientation, there are escalators in the law that apple to those types of crimes," explains Steffen. "Those [would] now exist for the first time in the State of Wisconsin for law enforcement."