Voicing support for law enforcement

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Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of times knows that I am unashamed and unapologetic when it comes to my support for law enforcement.

I simply cannot, do not, and will never buy into the politically correct, liberal, media-driven narrative that most American cops are violent, racist, subhuman creatures who are running amok with impunity.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Having said that, my support is not unconditional, nor is it given blindly. As a former crime reporter, I am fully aware of the abuses perpetrated by some police officers. As I have said before — and will no doubt say again — any police officer who engages in racism or otherwise abuses their authority should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Apparently I am not alone.

Earlier this month I came across an article about an Indiana man who is also voicing his support for law enforcement. His name is Craig B. Moore, and he recently wrote a song called Thin Blue Line.

Proceeds from downloads on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon will be used to benefit the families of slain law enforcement officers and fund regional law enforcement programs. Specifically, the money will go to the Indiana Chapter of C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors), the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Rush County Sheriff’s Department.

The proceeds designated for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Rush County Sheriff’s Department will be used for each agency’s K-9 program.

Moore’s goal is to raise $10,000 for the organizations.

As he told an Indiana TV station, “I hope that this reaches a lot of people and helps provide some sort of comfort to them.” Moore also said he wants the police to know how most Americans feel about them.  He explained that he wrote the song in order to  “provide the message that they’re our heroes, they’re out there to protect all of us day and night and they work hard to do that.”

Moore got the idea for the song after his brother-in-law — who works for the Rush County Sheriff’s Department — wrote to him this summer. According to Moore’s brother-in-law, Joshua Brinson, the letter was basically a “one page kind of an essay based on a fallen officers funeral and what goes through with all of that.”

Brinson reportedly wrote the letter after five officers were killed in Dallas over the summer.

He then sent it to Moore.

“It affects all of us that wears the uniform, but more importantly, it affects the families and that’s kind of how I looked at that,” said Brinson.

To say it’s been a rough year for American law enforcement is a bit of an understatement. There’s been too much sadness, too much loss, too much fear, too much mistrust, and too much ignorant rhetoric.

And in a year when the people who have screamed the loudest and engaged in the most hateful rhetoric have dominated the news, it’s nice to hear that someone has actually raised his voice for a good cause.

Thanks, Craig.

Police pit bulls — now that’s awesome

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There’s no doubt about it. Pit bulls get a really bad rap.

Some people say there’s a good reason for all of the bad press. But personally, I love pit bulls. I think they’re awesome dogs.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

So I was really happy and really excited when I came across this article about some pit bulls that not only found new homes, but also got new jobs. First, there’s Kiah. She’s “the first-ever pit bull K9 officer in the state of New York.”

As author Laura Goldman explains, “Kiah joined the Poughkeepsie Police Department after being rescued from a Texas shelter, where she’d ended up after her owner was arrested for animal cruelty.”

From what I understand, the department got her for free after a San Antonio, Texas-based business that specializes in training K9s teamed up with a New York-based organization devoted to saving pit bulls.

Generally speaking, law enforcement agencies have two options when it comes to their K9 programs. They either budget a small fortune for acquisition and training or they pursue other funding sources.  So by working together to send Kiah to Poughkeepsie, the Texas business and New York pit bull advocacy group saved the Poughkeepsie PD a lot of money. More importantly, they ensured that Kiah got a new home and a good job.

And clearly Kiah is a natural when it comes to police work and public relations.

“When they’re not at their jobs, Kiah and her partner, Officer Justin Bruzgul, visit schools and conferences to educate people about the importance of animal rescue,” Goldman explains. “Kiah is also a pit bull ambassador, showing that any dog breed can have amazing underlying potential.”

While Kiah was the first of her breed to become a K9 in New York, she is not alone. Law enforcement agencies across the country are welcoming rescued pit bulls to their ranks.

You can read more about K9 Wilson, K9 Mollie, K9 Libby, and K9 Ruby, here.

Unsung heroes — going beyond the call of duty to rescue animals

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American cops are certainly getting a lot of bad press these days — and with good reason, some might say. But I recently came across two stories that show just how far some police and animal control officers will go to do the right thing.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The first story, which was widely publicized here in the greater New York City area, is one about some Port Authority police officers who rescued an injured dog on the George Washington Bridge.

Now, you don’t have to live anywhere New York City to know that the GWB is, well, terrifying. At the best of times its upper and lower decks are crammed full of cars and trucks driven by cranky New York drivers in a rush to get across the span. Then there are the drivers trying to cross the bridge who have no idea where they’re going. Put the two groups together, add in some construction (there’s almost always construction), lane closures (that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie allegedly has no knowledge of) and you’ve got one giant cluster bleep.

Now I don’t know if there were actually any lane closures on the day in question. But chances are there was probably tons of traffic. In any case, just imagine being a poor little puppy stuck in the middle of all of that. And imagine how scared you’d be if you’d gotten hit by a car, too.

Fortunately for little Ronin, who found himself in heaps of trouble after he got away from the person walking him, Port Authority police officers Fred Corrubia and Jonathan Harder were on duty that day. According to published accounts, the officers — who were in the vicinity — responded to a report of an injured dog on the bridge, and brought him to safety. As if that wasn’t enough, the officers also took him to a local animal hospital, where he was treated for leg and paw injuries before being reunited with his owner.

In another recent act of bravery, animal control officers in Guilford, Connecticut, rescued a baby skunk. In media accounts chronicling the incident, officials said the little stinker (pun fully intended) was stuck in a courtyard at a local middle school. Rather than putting the children and the skunk through an unnecessary ordeal, the animal control officers used a humane trap to catch the skunk and then used an innovative method to remove it from the school grounds.

The skunk — which seemed healthy — reportedly emerged from the incident unscathed. And for the record, the animal control officers did, too.

Life lessons: what to do during a traffic stop

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Every law-abiding citizen knows that feeling.

It’s the one you get when you hear the siren, glance into the rear view mirror and see the cop car with the flashing lights. It’s the heart pounding, stomach clenching sensation that threatens to overwhelm you when you realize you’re about to get pulled over.

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Perhaps you didn’t realize you were speeding. Maybe you didn’t mean to roll through the stop sign. You know you meant to signal before changing lanes. But by the time the officer’s about to stop you, it’s a moot point.

The only question is what to do next.

In Illinois,  a new law ensures that every new motorist knows exactly what to do. Under the law, driver’s education classes throughout the state will include a section on traffic stop “etiquette.”

State Senator Julie Morrison is the Illinois lawmaker who co-sponsored the bill inked by the governor in August.

“Being pulled over by an officer is really stressful,” Morrison told the Chicago Tribune.  “I think it’s really important, especially in this time that we’re in, that kids and new drivers learn what is expected when they are stopped by an officer, how to respond correctly, to be respectful, and hopefully that will make the encounter as least problematic as possible. I’m hoping it protects both the officer and the driver from things escalating.”

Personally I think this is a great idea. But I would take things one step further. In addition to teaching new drivers what to do during a traffic stop, I think it is even more important to teach them why it is important to do it. In this day and age, it is crucial to help civilians see things from the police officer’s perspective.

It sounds like a cliché, but it is true. For a police officer, there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. The second the officer steps out of his or her cruiser, he or she is incredibly vulnerable. The risks of being shot, dragged under the car if the motorist decides to flee, or struck by a passing vehicle are real.

Just last month, a law enforcement officer in New Mexico was shot and killed during a traffic stop. Another officer was shot during a traffic stop in Indiana in July. The list goes on.

In another incident in upstate New York this summer, a police officer was reportedly  “pulled alongside the vehicle for almost 40 yards” after making a traffic stop. That’s almost half the length of a football field.

Luckily, the officer was not hurt. The motorist, who was stopped because he was allegedly driving without his headlights on after dark, was charged with with several misdemeanors and traffic violations.

FBI statistics released this May show that 41 law enforcement officers were “feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2015.” Of those, six officers were “conducting traffic pursuits/stops.”

As far as I am concerned, that’s six too many.

Colin Kaepernick and the hypocrisy of anti-police rhetoric

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I’ve come to the conclusion that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the human equivalent of a stink bug. He’s really annoying and he just won’t go away.

Or, more accurately, the controversy he’s stirred up by refusing to stand up for the National Anthem won’t go away.

Red, White and Blue Umbrella. Pictured on Memorial Day, 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Patriotic Colors. Memorial Day Ceremony in Warrenton, Va., May 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I’ve already made my feelings on that subject perfectly clear. I couldn’t disagree with him more. But if the little punk wants to express his displeasure with this country by sitting on his butt during the National Anthem, he’s perfectly free to do so. That’s the beautiful thing about America. We allow our citizens to protest without fear of reprisal.

How does that saying go? I believe it’s, “I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Or something like that.

However, I draw the line when it comes to the anti-law enforcement rhetoric that Kaepernick has been engaging in recently. Of course, he’s not the only one who’s been engaging in public cop-bashing lately.

But apparently he can’t get enough of the spotlight. So I will happily single him out for his hypocrisy — among other things.

Here’s the deal. As reasonable people, I think we can all agree that it is not okay to hate an entire group of people based on their race, religion or gender identity. I think we can also agree that it is not okay to hate an entire group of people based solely on the actions of a few — no matter how heinous those actions are.

But apparently it is perfectly okay to hate a whole group of people based solely on their profession. It is perfectly fine to hate a whole entire group of people in a given profession based on the actions of a few. At least, that’s the clearly the case as far as the media, the president, and various pop culture icons — including Kaepernick — are concerned.

Frankly, the hypocrisy is astounding.

This is (almost) enough to restore my faith in humanity

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A recent story about a Marshall, Virginia, boy’s generosity is almost enough to restore my faith in humanity. Almost.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

As reported on fauquier.com, young Cody Glidden demonstrated unusual maturity and selflessness as he prepared to celebrated his 11th birthday this summer. Instead of asking for presents, he asked his friends and family to get gift cards for local eateries. And instead of keeping them, he decided to give them away.

Specifically, he donated them to Warrenton’s Finest.

But would prompt the young boy to collect the gift cards for the local police? Warrenton Police Chief Lou Battle wondered the same thing.

“That was a first,” Battle told the Fauquier Times.  “It was a big, generous gesture. What kid that age would trade birthday presents for gift cards for police officers?”

To me, the answer is simple. A good kid. A kid who has already learned the importance of putting other people’s’ needs and feelings ahead of his own. A kid whose parents have done a fantastic job raising him.

“I just wanted them to know the people here appreciate them,” Cody told the newspaper. “I didn’t really expect anything, maybe just a thank you,” he said.

In return for his generosity, Cody got a tour of the Warrenton Police Department and some souvenirs. He also got to meet Battle and some Warrenton police officers when he and his father stopped by headquarters to drop off the gift cards.

Personally, I wish I’d still been there to cover this story. It was the kind of thing I loved to write about — and the kind of feel-good story that readers love to see.

Personally, I’d love to see more of these stories and less of the garbage that passes for “news” these days.

Who knows. If I do see more, it just might just fully restore my faith in humanity.

A police reporter’s perspective

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I haven’t been able to stop thinking about my friends lately — and with good reason. Most of them are cops.

I’ve known a lot of these guys for at least 12 years. I’ve known some of them longer than that.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Having said that, I must admit I wasn’t happy about getting the cops and courts beat when I started working at The Greenwich Post back in 1996. In fact, it was the last thing I wanted. I was so upset I cried. But I did my job. I didn’t love it — but it was OK.

When a new reporter joined the staff, I happily handed her the police beat. And it was only when I no longer had the job that I learned to appreciate it. With no pressure, I started doing some features on the Greenwich Police Department and getting to know everybody there a lot better. From that point on, covering cops was all I wanted to do.

In 1999 I left the Post to work at a weekly newspaper in Westchester County. And that’s when I got a chance to cover not one but three different law enforcement agencies. Two of them are pretty small and the police beat in those communities was pretty tame. And then there was the PCPD.

The Port Chester Police Department is pretty small, too. But because it serves a more urban, densely populated and ethnically diverse community, let’s just say that writing about crime there was often… challenging. Believe it or not, it was fun, too.

A lot had changed by 2003. The publisher had sold the newspaper where I had actually enjoyed working in the summer of 2001. The new owners were…. well, the less said about them, the better. So in January 2004, I moved 300 miles away from home to join the staff of what had once been one of the best suburban newspapers in the country.

I had a five-year plan when I moved to Warrenton, Va. But for various reasons I ended up staying there for more than eight. The cops in the law enforcement agencies I covered there became friends. And because I had moved to Virginia alone, without knowing anyone, they also became my surrogate family. That didn’t mean I compromised my objectivity, though. If anything, it made me work even harder to make sure my “journalistic integrity” remained in tact. (You can stop laughing now. It does exist — and I did have it.)

Having said that, there was one time when I almost lost it. It was December 29, 2009. I had just brought Eli home from the vet, and was making lunch when I heard a court deputy’s voice come across the police scanner. “Officer down! All units! Shots fired! Officer down!”

At first I thought it was some sort of drill. But I didn’t waste too much time thinking about it. I set the land speed record from my house to the courthouse, where a bank robbery suspect awaiting a hearing made a desperate bid to escape. He stabbed one deputy in the face and then used his first victim’s gun to shoot another deputy who intervened.

I arrived at the Fauquier County Circuit Court building to find the scene had already been secured. No one objected when I joined a K-9 handler on the perimeter and snapped some photographs of one of the victims being loaded into an ambulance. Long before the D.C. media arrived on the scene, I learned that perpetrator was quickly subdued and that both deputies — one of whom I knew pretty well — were expected to make full recoveries.

It was a very, very close call.

I think about that day every time I hear about a police officer being hurt or killed in the line of duty. I say a silent prayer for the victim(s) and their families. And then I thank God it was no one I know.

I think about my friends every time I hear about a law enforcement officer being hurt or killed in the line of duty. And then I say a prayer that they’ll all stay safe. Because they have husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends and children and parents who would be destroyed if anything happened.

And then I think about the thugs and criminals who prey on innocent, law-abiding citizens and the cops who are sworn to protect them. And then I say a prayer that they’ll be brought to justice — even though I know that seldom happens.

Frankly it makes me sick. But not half as sick as I feel when I listen to President Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio making baseless and ignorant comments that fuel anti-police sentiment. Thanks largely to their anti-law enforcement rhetoric, people like alleged Dallas sniper Micah Johnson think it’s perfectly okay to declare open season on police.

Now I will never deny that there are some really bad cops out there. There are plenty of racists and bullies in uniform — there is no doubt about it. They make me sick. And yes, Mr. Obama, they should be held fully accountable for their actions.

But what about the thugs and gangsters and criminals who routinely target honest, decent, hard-working cops in law enforcement agencies across the country? What about all of the people in this country who want to kill cops just because they’re cops? What about them, Mr. President? What about them?

The truth about Dallas

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“The term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended —

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

18 U.S. Code § 2331 – Definitions

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. By that definition the Dallas shooting that claimed the lives of five law enforcement officers and injured seven others on Thursday night was an act of domestic terrorism. Whether anyone in the Obama administration cares to admit it or not.

It was also a hate crime. Whether anyone in the Obama administration cares to admit it or not.

As defined by federal statute, “hate crime acts” include those in which someone “willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion or national origin of any person…”

According to published reports, Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, was allegedly responsible for the Dallas carnage. He reportedly expressed the desire to “kill white people, especially police officers.” Johnson, who police killed during a standoff after the shooting, was apparently motivated by “recent fatal shootings of black men by police elsewhere in the United States.”

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In other developments, authorities in Missouri are now investigating what might have prompted a motorist to shoot a police officer during a traffic stop on Friday.

The suspect, identified as Antonio Taylor, 31, had reportedly been stopped for speeding. Then, for unknown reasons, the “routine” traffic stop took a tragic turn. Harrowing images captured on the cruiser’s camera, show the officer speaking with Taylor and returning to the police car. Taylor can then be seen approaching the patrol car, where the officer appeared to be doing paperwork. Without any visible provocation, Taylor fired three times, critically injuring the officer.

Police arrested him  a short time after he fled the scene in his car and tried to avoid capture on foot. Taylor, a convicted felon, is now facing several charges including assault on a police officer in what police have described as an “ambush.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee authorities are also trying to determine what prompted a recent shooting spree that killed one civilian, and injured two others. A police officer was also hurt.

According to media accounts, the suspect hit a civilian when he allegedly fired through a hotel window on Thursday, and then  targeting vehicles on a nearby highway. Lakeem Keon Scott, 37, who is also accused of firing at responding police officers, was also injured when they shot back.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a preliminary investigation indicated that  Scott “may have targeted individuals and officers after being troubled by recent incidents involving African-Americans and law enforcement officers in other parts of the country.”

When all is said and done, I am sure the authorities will identify the motives for these attacks — but they’ll never be able to provide a satisfactory explanation. It’s  impossible — because there’s simply no cause for such hateful behavior. None whatsoever.

Unanswered questions remain following Harambe’s death

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The rush to judgment following the Cincinnati Zoo incident that resulted in a small boy’s injuries and a gorilla’s death is understandable but unproductive.

It is understandable because the incident involves two issues that ignite our passions: the welfare of children and the welfare of animals. But pointing fingers and laying blame before all of the facts are known doesn’t do anyone any good.

A Comprehensive Investigation Is Warranted

From what I understand, authorities began looking into the matter this week.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

An article in The New York Times indicates the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office and Cincinnati police are now trying to learn more about the events leading up to the incident in which a three-year-old boy somehow got into the gorilla’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.

“The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges.”

A second statement issued by Deters’ office yesterday said the police inquiry had been completed and that Deters is reviewing their findings. His own review of the findings could be finished as soon as today.

According to media reports, the little boy was not badly hurt. However his adventure — or misadventure — ended tragically when zoo personnel shot and killed a large male gorilla named Harambe. While there are conflicting accounts about Harambe’s behavior, the  personnel on scene apparently believed he posed a significant danger to the child and acted accordingly.

Because the United States Department of Agriculture oversees zoos, federal authorities will be tasked with conducting a separate investigation should it come to that. Specifically, they would be charged with assessing conditions around the enclosure and determining whether the shooting was justified.

Here’s What I Want To Know

As I’ve already mentioned, there are conflicting accounts about Harambe’s behavior. Since I wasn’t on the scene, here’s what I want to know:

  • Were people screaming after the little boy got into the enclosure?
  • If so did the screaming seem to alarm Harambe?
  • If so why didn’t the zoo workers quiet the crowd?
  • Did zoo workers clear the area?
  • How many workers came to the enclosure?
  • Were they specially trained in dealing with gorillas?
  • What kind of training did they receive?
  • How often are training exercises done?
  • What types of training exercise are done?
  • What is the zoo’s policy regarding the use of lethal force?
  • What is the zoo’s policy regarding public safety?
  • How often are these policies reviewed?

I am sure you have questions, too. Please feel free to share them below.

Blue lives matter bill puts things in perspective

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Yesterday this country lost a true hero.

A man went to work and never came home.

And now somewhere a family grieves. A wife is now a widow. Three children no longer have a father.

But there are no protests. There is no national media coverage and there is no national outrage — because Ronald Tarentino Jr. was a cop.

Officer Down

His death is summed up in a few brief paragraphs on the Officer Down Memorial Page website. Here’s what happened. Tarentino, an officer with the Auburn Police Department in Massachusetts for two years, made a traffic stop shortly after midnight. As he approached the vehicle, someone inside (allegedly) pulled a gun and killed him in cold blood.

“The subject who shot him fled the scene, but was later located at an Oxford apartment building,” the synopsis on the ODMP website says. “As officers searched the apartment he was believed to have been hiding in they discovered a secret passage into an adjoining apartment. When the officers made entry into the second apartment the subject exited a closet and opened fire, wounding one Massachusetts State Police tactical team trooper before being killed.”

Tarentino — who had previously served on the Leicester Police Department — was just 42.

Grim Statistics

Tarentino was the second law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Massachusetts this year. In all, 38 American police officers have died in the line of duty so far this year. Of those, 19, including Tarentino, died after being shot. The number of officers killed by gunfire so far this year represents a 46 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2015.

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Danville, Ohio Police Officer Thomas Cottrell — the first officer killed in the line of duty this year — was also the first to die after being shot. According to information on the ODMP website, the person who surprised him behind a local building was targeting police officers.

“At approximately 11:20 pm (January 17) dispatchers received a call from a female subject stating that police officers in Danville were in danger,” according to the synopsis on odmp.org. “She stated her ex-boyfriend was armed and intended to kill a police officer.”

When Cottrell did not respond to radio transmissions, law enforcement personnel organized and initiated a coordinated search. Searchers found Cottrell’s body a short while later and an ensuing manhunt resulted in the apprehension of the alleged perpetrator.

At just 34, Cottrell worked in law enforcement for more than a decade. He his survived by his parents, stepmother, several siblings and three children.

The Blue Lives Matter Bill

According to various media accounts, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards could soon sign a bill that would make attacking a police officer, firefighter or paramedic in that state a hate crime.

Apparently this doesn’t sit well with a lot of people — most of whom probably have no problem admitting they hate cops.

Personally, I think it’s great. Because as far as I’m concerned, all lives matter.