By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Some Maryland lawmakers want to make it a hate crime for anyone who targets first responders.

Ava-Joye Burnett has more on the legislation that would give officers the same privileges given to other protected groups.

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The bill has wide support from law enforcement agencies all across the U.S. Some Maryland lawmakers want to classify pre-meditated attacks against law enforcement as a hate crime.

The move came after a deadly 2016 for law enforcement. In July, five officers were gunned down in Dallas. Just days later, three more officers were murdered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Investigators say the suspect targeted police. And in March in Prince George’s County, investigators say three brothers launched a gun battle against officers in front of a police station.

28-year-old detective Jacai Colson died when a fellow officer accidentally shot him.

Harford County’s sheriff testified in Annapolis Tuesday in favor of the bill.

“It’s insanity if what it is, and what we saw in Dallas and what we saw in Baton Rouge. And again, these are men and women with no other intention than to make their community safe and they are being targeted,” said Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler.

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But there is opposition to the bill. If it passes, the ACLU is concerned it could drive a wedge between law enforcement and the community they serve. The ACLU told our media partner the Baltimore Sun:

“There is absolutely no evidence that Maryland’s prosecutors are unable to pursue crimes against law enforcement under existing criminal statutes…”

Last February, two Harford County deputies died in the line of duty. Even though it’s not clear they were specifically targeted, Sheriff Gahler thinks a change in the hate crime law could have made a difference.

“You know, my hope is that just enough hesitation, in our instance with Pat and Mark, just a couple of moments would have been enough, for Pat to have reacted and been able to maybe defend himself.”

Last year, Louisiana became the first state to extend hate crime protection to law enforcement.

According to our media partner the Baltimore Sun,  an offender could get 10 years for felonies and 20 if a victim dies.

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Ava-joye Burnett