Mac Moore
KU Statehouse Wire Service
After a report from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund indicated ambush-style police killings increased 300 percent in 2016, Kansas lawmakers looked to counter police targeting crimes with the Law Enforcement Act.
House Bill 2049 was heard in the Senate Judiciary committee and would enhance the sentencing of nondrug felony crimes intentionally committed against law enforcement officers.
The bill passed in the House with a 112-8 vote last month.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the law expands criminal statutes that already enhance certain crimes against law enforcement, such assault or capital murder.
“In my view, a law enforcement sentencing enhancement is good public policy and entirely appropriate,” Schmidt said. “This distinction long has been recognized in the very structure of our criminal code.”
Schmidt said the problem is with crimes like second-degree murder, where the offender’s actions were not premeditated, would not receive the same enhancement as capital murder or even aggravated assault.
Under the bill, level 1 felonies would receive a minimum sentence of life in prison if it was established that the offender committed the act because they were targeting a police officer. The offender could not receive probation and would not be released on parole before serving at least 25 years of their sentence.
The bill would make all felonies level 2 through 10 increase one level in severity.
Hal Asmussen, Kansas Fraternal Order of Police member, said there were recent incidents in Topeka and Wichita where suspects threatened officers and their families. Asmussen said the enhancement penalties are even more important after 14 ambush-style police killings last year.
“This bill makes it clear that victimizing a person due to their status as a law enforcement officer will not be tolerated by the people of this great state.”
The Senate Judiciary committee took no action on the bill.
Mac Moore is a University of Kansas senior journalism major from Lawrence.