All Lives Matter Equally, But Some Lives Matter More Equally than Others
September 9, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Raul Delatoba may have the inauspicious honor of being the first person charged under Louisiana’s new “Blue Lives Matter” law, which makes certain crimes hate crimes when the targets are cops:
A Louisiana man faces a felony hate crime charge for allegedly yelling sexist and racist slurs at a police officer, in what appears to be the first application of the state’s “Blue Lives Matter” law.
Raul Delatoba faces charges of damaging property and disturbing the peace after being accused of breaking a window at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter on Monday.
His additional hate crime charge after calling a female officer a “dumb a-s c–t” and a black officer a “dumb a-s n—-r” is thought to be the first application of a law increasing penalties for those who attack law enforcement, according to The Times-Picayune.
It seems Delatoba was an asshole. He was apparently rowdy. He was apparently even violent. It also seems he’s potentially a misogynist and a racist, or at the very least says misogynistic and racist things when he’s pissed off. Alcohol or drugs were probably involved, but plenty of people get wasted without incident. Delatoba did some things that are uncontroversially illegal, and then he called cops names.
Although Delatoba was a disaster in general, it wasn’t the fact he destroyed property at a hotel or called a woman and a black person about the worst thing you could call either that got him in real trouble. Delatoba is in the news because, violent property-damaging tendencies and racist-sexist slurs aside, his biggest mistake may turn out to be directing some of his verbal-only misbehavior at a couple of those poor, fragile, gun-carrying souls among us who are just trying to serve and protect. Louisiana has made it clear that these cream puffs need our help, and they need it bad.
It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim of [certain offenses] against person and property . . . because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer.
I doubt Delatoba’s case will be the last use of the law, and based on the text, there’s a good chance it won’t be anywhere near the most absurd either. Just wait for the case where the victim is someone only perceived to be law enforcement. Better shave your moustache and flat-top crewcuts, people, lest you be targeted with a hate crime. Women and black people have no clue how hard it is to look like a cop in today’s world. Security guards and guys with subscriptions to Soldier of Fortune magazine need protection. Desperately.
The article latches onto what might be the most interesting part of the case:
Louisiana’s hate crime law adds additional penalties to defendants convicted of offenses including damaging property, though the “underlying offense” must be targeted at a victim because of factors including their race, gender, religion or occupation.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times-Picayune that she does not believe a hate crime was committed because the slurs were not connected to the original window offense.
Delatoba didn’t break the window out of hate. While he may have thought he was breaking the hotel window, absent proof that was the case, what he did there was just ordinary property damage and not a hate crime at all. The hate crime count was disturbing with his mean words the peace of two delicate teacups who showed up to investigate. He caused real damage to property and it wasn’t such a big deal. He said mean things to cops and it’s a hate crime.
While Louisiana’s willingness to criminalize meanness to cops is admirable provided that you agree they are frightened little baby birds shaking in fear of insults and needing our protection, it’s a bit of a problem in light of case law from the Supreme Court of the United States. Things seem to have changed in the decades since the court decided Houston v. Hill, and yet the court hasn’t done a complete take-back:
[T]he First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.
Speech is often provocative and challenging. . . . [But it] is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.
If you’re wanting to protect cop feelz from nasty-mouthed citizens, things get even worse:
[A] properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to ‘exercise a higher degree of restraint’ than the average citizen, and thus be less likely to respond belligerently to ‘fighting words.’
A little less than thirty years ago, it seems cops were held to a higher standard. They weren’t equal in the eyes of the law, but rather expected to put up with more than your average person. The same training and experience that now serves mostly to give their testimony often unduly substantial weight once made us ask more of them too. What happened?
Sure, there undoubtedly hasn’t been a year that’s gone by where numerous cops haven’t arrested people for mean words and prosecutors haven’t rushed to distinguish the applicable case law, but what Louisiana has really taken things a step farther. They’ve codified that cops get the best of both worlds.
Cops aren’t just equal in Louisiana now. It’s such a dangerous job and it’s so hurtful getting called names that they’re extra equal. Blue lives matter most in Louisiana now. Just ask Delatoba.