Kansas signs bill with tougher penalties for crimes against police

The law enhances penalties for non-drug felonies against police if the officer is on duty or if the perpetrator knows the victim is an officer


Kansas will soon have tougher penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers, under legislation signed into law on Friday by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Individuals who commit felonies against law enforcement officers while they are carrying out their official duties or because they are law enforcement officers will face greater sentences beginning July 1. Under a level one felony – the most severe – the minimum sentence would now be life in prison.

Brownback signed the bill as law enforcement officers gathered in the statehouse for an annual ceremony honoring officers who have died in the line of duty.

“It’s time we act to better protect those who have always protected us,” Brownback said.

While the bill strengthens penalties for those who are motivated to commit crimes against law enforcement officers because they are law enforcement, the legislation doesn’t address penalties for hate crimes against other groups. Some lawmakers pushed for tougher hate crime penalties in the wake of a shooting in Olathe earlier this year that may have been racially-motivated.

Brownback said his sense was that because the legislative session is in its late stages that a hate crime bill probably won’t advance.

“I haven’t heard whether there is or isn’t more possibility of things going forward,” Brownback said.

Still, Friday’s bill signing offered a non-partisan accomplishment at a time when lawmakers are mired in disputes over taxes and the budget.

Lawmakers acted quickly this week in an effort to pass the bill before Friday’s ceremony. The House passed the legislation 115-9 on Tuesday and the Senate voted 38-0 to send the bill to Brownback on Wednesday.

“There were numerous staff people, revisors and clerks who worked hard this week to take this bill from a conference committee report on Monday to a final product today,” said Rep. Blaine Finch, an Ottawa Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

“We believed it was important that this bill be signed today when law enforcement was here in our statehouse and they can see a tangible accomplishment of this Legislature, a tangible reminder that we value the service that they provide.”

The bill also allows records stemming from arrests because of mistaken identity to be expunged. The provision applies to people arrested because of misidentification or misinformation provided to law enforcement.

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