Press release, photo submitted.
Sen. Fred Akshar, joined by senators Martin Golden and Patrick Gallivan, recently announced the Community Heroes Protection Act (S1114A/A2962A). The act would designate crimes that specifically target police, firefighters and other emergency service workers punishable as hate crimes.
The Community Heroes Protection Act was inspired by the many men and women in uniform who have lost their lives, were injured, or targeted simply because of their jobs as protectors of the community.
Researchers have found that between 2015 and 2016, there was a 68-percent increase in firearms related fatalities among law enforcement. This brings the total number of officers who were fatally shot in 2016 to 64.
In the month of December, a Youngstown, Ohio firefighter was shot on the scene of a house fire. City of Youngstown Fire Department Fire Chief John O’Neill told the media that the police were investigating the incident as a targeted shooting. This past week, 12-year-veteran firefighter Luke Jones was brutally beaten off duty at a nightclub in Phoenix. Homicide investigators say the manager and bouncer of the nightclub continuously struck the already injured firefighter while he was on the ground. Jones died shortly after being dropped off at the local hospital.
According to The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, four in five medical technicians have experienced some form of injury as a result of the job. Approximately 52-percent claimed to have been injured by assault and more than 20 percent said personal safety was their primary concern.
“We are living in a time where our nation is divided and crimes against first responders and police officers are on the rise,” said Akshar (R-C- I, Colvesville). “Thousands of men and women voluntarily put their uniforms on every day to protect and serve our communities in a capacity no other could, even when there are very few willing to stand up for them.”
In numerous studies across the country it has been found, that law enforcement officers are not the only first responders being violently targeted. In New York alone, areas such as Cape Vincent and Webster have seen EMTs, firefighters, and 9-1-1 dispatchers injured or killed in numerous ambush-style acts of violence.
“Police officers, firefighters and other first responders are dedicated to serving and protecting our citizens and our communities and they deserve our full support,” said Gallivan, a former New York state trooper and sheriff of Erie County. “I am deeply troubled by incidents in New York and across the country where men and women in uniform have been targeted because of who they represent, when in fact they represent all of us.
"By imposing stiffer penalties on those who perpetrate such crimes, we are sending a clear message that we stand with law enforcement and other emergency personnel who put their lives on the line in an effort to build safer communities for everyone.”
“Each day, our brave and dedicated law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and medical service personnel put their lives on the line for our safety,” said Golden (R-C- I, Brooklyn), a former New York City police officer. “Sadly, these same individuals are being targeted with violence simply because they wear a uniform and are an officer or a first responder.
"The Community Heroes Protection Act will classify these bias attacks against our law enforcement officers and first responders as hate crimes. This will allow our prosecutors and judges to ensure that an offender receives a punishment that fits this heinous crime. As legislators, it is our obligation to help protect our law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and medical service personnel as they perform their critical duties protecting the citizens of New York State. Although there will always be danger, I am confident that Community Heroes Protection Act will help protect New York State.”
The act classifies all crimes against first responders as hate crimes.These offenses are designated as hate crimes only if they are intentionally aimed at first responders based on the profile of their career.
Under current law, when a person is convicted of a hate crime and the specified offense is a misdemeanor or a Class C, D or E felony, the hate crime is deemed to be one category higher than the specified offense or one category higher than the offense level applicable to the defendant`s conviction. Police officers and first responders are not included in the current definition of a hate crime.
“I’m honored to sponsor the Community Heroes Protection Act in the Assembly - it’s common sense to protect those who keep us safe every day,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate. “We need to be clear – violence against our police officers, firefighters, and first responders will not be tolerated and those who commit these vicious acts will be held accountable.”
“I want to thank Senator Akshar for his hard work on this important piece of legislation. As an active volunteer firefighter and former EMT, I know firsthand how hard our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel work to protect our communities,” said Sen. Phil Boyle (R-C- I, Suffolk County). “It’s imperative that we work to do everything we can to protect these brave men and women.”
“The willingness of individuals to use violence against emergency response personnel has increased in both frequency and severity,” said Daniel Sisto, vice president and legislative director for the New York State Troopers PBA (Police Benevolent Association). “A clear message must be sent that this dangerous behavior will not be tolerated. Those that are willing to ignore that message must be held accountable.”
“The past year has been a troubling one for law enforcement and first responders as a whole. As first responders, now more than ever, we must be not only aware and responsive to the needs of our community, but supremely vigilant of our own safety as well,” said Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.
“Crimes which specifically target first responders should indeed be given extra scrutiny. I thank Senator Akshar on behalf of the Sheriffs of New York, and pledge the support of our Association to this legislation.”
“NYSACOP is grateful that the sponsors of the Community Heroes Protection Act are taking the unprecedented attacks against law enforcement seriously, and taking serious action to curb it,” said New York State Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSACOP) President David J. Zack. “Law enforcement officers, correction officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel expose themselves to danger each and every day.
"Each understood the risk when they took the job. These brave men and women are willing to lay down their lives to protect the lives of others. It is only right that the Legislature and the governor do all each can to deter those who wish to do these heroes harm based solely on the hatred they possess for those who play such a vital role in our American society.”
“Far too often our members have been targeted by menacing individuals solely because they are firefighters,” said Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) President Kenneth Pienkowski. “In 2009 one of our volunteers from the Cape Vincent Fire Department, Mark Davis, was killed while attending to a patient during an EMS call response.
"In December of 2012, a gunman ambushed four volunteer firefighters who were battling a house fire in Webster, killing two. These despicable and tragic incidents are unfortunately becoming commonplace; they are but two examples of the dangers our members face outside of their primary function as firefighters. Our members are volunteers who accept this job with no pay, little benefits and only a desire to protect their community.
“How can we possibly ask people to join the ranks of the volunteer community if we cannot give them the most basic protections against malevolent individuals who target them because of what they do? This legislation is vitally important to ensure the protection of our members who risk their lives daily to protect their community."
“Our members appreciate the support and acknowledgment of Senator Fred Akshar and other members of the Senate and Assembly, of the risks and dangers that exist in our profession,” said Vincent Variale, president of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union of the FDNY (Fire Department of New York). “This legislation will send a strong message. If you assault an emergency responder you will pay a heavy price.”
“This is a much needed legislative initiative. The leading cause of serious injuries to EMS professionals is due to assault, on both a state and national level,” said Israel Miranda, president of the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services. “Anyone who intentionally assaults a first responder because of their perceived employment or uniform they wear, is unacceptable.”
“On behalf of over 30,000 active and retired members of NYSCOPBA, I would like to thank Senator Akshar and Assemblyman Abbate for their leadership in sponsoring the Community Heroes Protection Act,” said Michael B. Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association Inc. (NYSCOPBA). “NYSCOPBA is honored to stand side-by-side with our fellow brothers and sisters in law enforcement and the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect our communities.
"Recently we have witnessed several unjustified crimes against members of the law enforcement community for no other reason than the type of job that they perform or the uniform that they wear. Criminals who target law enforcement officers and first responders need to be held accountable for their actions. This legislation is a step in the right direction that will help ensure that our members return home safely at the end of their shifts.”
“The mission of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs is to educate and train firefighters and officers, so that they can stay safe while working to protect their communities,” said Jerry DeLuca, executive director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. “The Community Heroes Protection Act goes one step further in helping to ensure the safety of those firefighters, police officers and EMS workers who place their lives in jeopardy for the safety of the public.”
“Our firefighters and so many other first responders put their lives at risk every single day to rescue others,” said James Slevin, president of the United Firefighters Association. “To know that criminal acts – against our heroes – are on the rise is a serious concern, and we commend Senator Akshar and others for introducing the Community Heroes Protection Act. This bill will help ensure that crimes targeted against our brave emergency service workers will be punishable as hate crimes.”
“Even with all of the recent negativity, law enforcement officers and first responders continue to dedicate their lives to helping and protecting others,” said Louis Viscusi, president of Suffolk County Correction Officers Association. “This legislation will give us the protection we need to deter targeted offenses against law enforcement, firefighters and EMS workers. The Suffolk County Correction Officers Association is proud to support this bill.”
“Make no mistake, the passage of stiffer penalties will not single-handedly protect all of our emergency service workers, nor will it mend all relationships between those who serve the public and the public whom they serve,” said Akshar.
“This is a stepping stone in deterring crime based on prejudice, but it’s incumbent upon all of us on both sides of the uniforms to talk to each other, to become involved in each others’ lives and make an effort to truly understand each others’ perspectives. Only then can we build stronger, safer communities for everyone in them.”