Local lawmakers planning bills to protect police in upcoming legislative session

Speaker Straus, Sen. Menendez expect widespread support for new laws

By Tim Gerber - Reporter/Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - Following the targeted killing of San Antonio police Detective Benjamin Marconi Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott renewed his call for a law that would make it a hate crime to target law enforcement officers.

Abbott first proposed the Police Protection Act this summer following the deadly ambush attack on officers in Dallas.

Two local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, state House Speaker Joe Straus and state Sen. Jose Menendez, said getting laws passed to protect officers will be a top priority when the new legislative session kicks off in January.

Straus vowed Tuesday to pass legislation in the upcoming session to send a message saying that crimes against law enforcement officers will not be taken lightly in the Lone Star State.

"I think that horrific crimes against police are going to be very much top of mind. They will get attention," Straus said. "And when crimes are perpetrated against them, that punishment will be as swift and severe as possible."

Just days after a sniper ambushed officers in Dallas, shooting 12 and killing five, Abbott proposed the Police Protection Act.

It calls for extending hate crime protections to law enforcement officers, "making it a hate crime for anyone to commit a crime against any officer out of bias against police." It would also "increase criminal penalties for any crime in which the victim is a law enforcement officer, whether or not the crime qualifies as a hate crime."

Menendez said he supports the proposal, including the governor's call to "create a culture of respect for police through education."

Menendez has already pre-filed a bill calling for additional training for new drivers, requiring the curriculum "to include a demonstration of the proper actions to be taken during a traffic stop" and how to properly interact with law enforcement." 

"This is where I think we have to do a better job of educating our young people in terms of they just need to show respect," Menendez said.

With this week’s cold-blooded killing of Marconi, both lawmakers believe there will be widespread support for any legislation aimed at protecting those who protect us.

"This horrible crime here in San Antonio is a reminder of the sacrifices that our police officers and their families make every single day when they go on duty," Straus said. "I think you're going to see broad support showing our respect, showing our commitment, to those that protect the public every day."

"We have to do better, and we have to send a message that not only will you not get away with it, but there'll be some serious repercussions," Menendez said.

In addition to Menendez's bill, another bill was pre-filed Monday in the House that would increase the penalties for crimes against law enforcement.

For example, an assault with bodily injury on an officer would go from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.

State law currently includes punishment for killing an on-duty officer with two options: life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

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