Lawmakers push for stronger penalties for crimes against first responders, police officers

Lawmakers push for stronger penalties for crimes against first responders, police officers (FILE PHOTO)

LANSING, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- Some Michigan lawmakers are trying to pass stronger penalties against people who commit crimes against our police officers and first responders.

Last week, Republicans ushered the legislation through the State House.

Before he came to Lansing, Republican State Rep. Jeff Yaroch was a firefighter. Now as a lawmaker, he wants to protect the people he served with.

“People are frustrated with society,” said Yaroch. “They are frustrated with government and they are using our firefighters, police officers, and paramedics as targets to communicate their frustration with government."

Yaroch's bill package would slap on an additional two-year penalty for people who target police officers and firefighters.

Yaroch says the extra jail time is needed because he's hearing that off-duty officers are getting harassed on social media.

“People they arrested are saying I am going to get you, I’m going to get your family,” said Yaroch. “The laws don't necessarily apply because they are off duty."

Democrat State Rep. Jewell Jones voted against Yaroch's bill.

Jones is a police officer and he doesn't think adding felony charges is necessary to keeping officers safe.

"I don't see that as being much of a concern,” Jones said. “I think it's about how do you interact with the community and what the department that you are working with is doing to build more of a community relation. I think that is something we need to get to in our nation."

“I really think our legislature needs to put the needs of the community first,” said Kimberly Buddin of the Michigan ACLU.

The ACLU of Michigan is opposed to Yaroch's bill.

“All the research shows that typically when we have enhanced sentences, they are used in low-income communities of color to basically get a plea deal out of somebody," she said.

Buddin and Jones agree Republicans are trying to pass this legislation to get police officers and firefighters back on their side after their push to reform first responder's benefits.

“Some of my colleagues are using our folk that we send out there every day to risk their lives as political pawns,” Jones said.

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