Bryant signs bill doubling penalties for anti-police crimes

Bryant signs bill doubling penalties for anti-police crimes

JACKSON, MS (AP) - Beginning July 1, people in Mississippi who commit crimes against law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency workers will face doubled penalties.

Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday signed House Bill 645 , the "Back the Badge Act," meant as a response to killings of police officers last year in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.

Bryant, a Republican, says he believes the law will deter people from attacking officers.

The law expands Mississippi's existing hate crimes law, which enhances penalties for crimes committed because of a victim's race, religion, national origin or gender. The measure says it shouldn't be interpreted to limit free speech - addressing concerns about people being punished for protesting police behavior.

During earlier debates, some lawmakers raised concerns about harsh treatment of African-Americans by police officers.

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