Bills seek to increase penalties for crimes against officers - CBS46 News

Bills seek to increase penalties for crimes against officers

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ATLANTA (AP) -

Some Georgia lawmakers are proposing harsher penalties for crimes committed against police officers, firefighters and other public servants. The proposals come after a particularly rough year for law enforcement in Georgia, with 10 officers killed in the line of duty.

The legislation would greatly expand the definition of a public safety officer as a police officer, correctional officer, emergency health worker, firefighter, highway emergency response operator, or officer of the court. Under the bill, more crimes would be classified as felonies with longer required prison sentences.

The proposed bills would allow juveniles to be prosecuted as adults for crimes against a police officer and lift the cap of $10,000 on damages that a parent could be held responsible for.

The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a package of four bills, dubbed the "Back the Badge" bills. The bills advance to the Senate Rules committee, which will decide whether the proposals merit a vote by the full chamber.

"We have to take care of our officers," said Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, who sponsored three bills and was personally connected to four of the officers killed in the past year. "They don't need to be looking over their backs."

Kirk said that one of the problems is that in some rural parts of Georgia, law enforcement officers are not being paid enough and, consequently, sheriffs and police chiefs can't retain their best people. He sponsored a bill that would create a database of the salaries and benefits received by law enforcement officers around the state and country, so that local municipalities could make informed decisions about what they choose to pay their officers.

Kirk also want's to raise the amount of money given to the family of a slain officer to $150,000. He plans to do so by imposing an extra fine of $5,000 for any crime committed against a public safety officer. He also sponsored a bill that would create a special license plate with "Back the Badge" printed on the bottom.

"We must enforce harsher penalties upon those who inflict harm on our officers, and ensure the families of our fallen heroes are taken care of when tragedy strikes," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a supporter of the bills.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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