Cop Killers -Disproportionate response?

I have noticed that both here in the UK and in the US there seems to be a disprortionate response to the murder of police officers. E.g. the perpetrators are punished more severely than murderers of normal members of the public.

While I, of course, in no way condone the killing of anybody I am puzzled by this.

The police are there to serve and protect the public hence are more likely to be in harms way and therefore more likely to be injured or killed than a typical member of the public.

So my questions:

Is there a legal basis for the longer sentences given to cop killers or is it a cultural issue of the law enforcement community pulling together?

Why is the murder of a police officer worse than the murder of a “normal” person?

This is not a trolling thread I am genuinely puzzled. Mods if it needs to be moved to GD please feel free. I put it here as I feel there should be an actual answer to these questions.

In some jurisdictions, yes, there is a legal basis for longer sentences given to cop killers. There may be separate laws governing the murder of civilians and the murder of police officers. In other jurisdictions it may not be codified in the statute, but judges may use their discretion in sentencing to deal more harshly with cop killers.

So long as a jusrisdiction has a law providing for more servere penalties for the murder of a law enforcement officer, then that law is the legal basis. As to why it’s considered worse, I believe the thinking is that the offender is killing a representative of the society and thus is, in some way, killing the society.

I believe its because police officers are representatives of the rule of law and representives of the state and by extension the people.

There’s a reason why during the Troubles, and still in the present day (in recent months a hand-grenade was thrown at a police patrol in Belfast and there were shots fired at officers in Derry a couple of weeks ago, and those are just two examples of many), terrorist organisations go out of their way to target police officers and not, for example, firemen (fire officers?).

And just out of interest to you have a recent example of a ‘cop-killer’ getting a heavier sentence in the UK? Not saying your wrong just looking for confirmation.

I do know that assaulting a police officer in the course of their duties is currently looked on as a relatively minor offence in the UK when back in the day I believe it resulted in a pretty much automatic one-month prison sentence. Personally they should bring back the latter rule, police officers do put themselves in harms way by the nature of their job but the powers that be should make it clear that attacking an officer is not acceptable.

But then I also believe that if someone attacks a doctor or nurse verbally or physically while being treated they should be shown the door and not let back in until they learn some manners and respect.

This case - David Bieber - seems to support that sentiment, but also indicates that there is no special case in law for murder of police officers.

Quick summary: American in the UK was wanted for murder in Florida. Police in the UK stopped him and while he was in the back of their car he shot at them with a 9mm handgun.

Two officers escaped, but one of the officers was injured and defenceless, and Bieber then shot him in the head at point-blank range.

The judge made the point in the trial that:

To shoot and kill an officer in such circumstances, doing no more than trying to serve us all, is an attack on all of us.”

Bieber was originally sent to prision with no possiblity of parole, but this was later reduced to min 37 years on appeal. So in theory, at least, there is no special legal status for killing police officers in the UK, but this is not the view held by many individuals.

If you have access to an old copy of Dragnet, 1968(???) series, they have a scene where they give a Q&A to the public, and Joe Friday gives a very acceptable answer to this. At least, acceptable, meaning it sounded good at the time, but, I was 12 when I heard it. Now, I can’t even remember it.

Best wishes,

Can’t think of a current example that resulted in a conviction as both of our most recent gun crime sprees ended with the death of the individuals involved.

But my question arose from the Raoul Moat case where he severely injured a policeman and killed or injured several others. Specifically I wondered about his accompliceswho it seems received life sentences. I guess they might have done under any other circumstances, but I wondered whether it was due to the fact that police injurieswere involved.

Some years ago as a devout opponent of the IRA I began to read a few books to confirm my opinions. Mostly what they confirmed was that I didn’t know much at all about the whole thing.

My understanding of the different treatment of the police and the fire officers was that the Catholics felt that the Police were unresponsive to crime in the Catholic areas, thus the IRA took to disciplining their own. However the Fire Brigade has always responded even handedly to fires in both Catholic and Protestant areas and the IRA said they were to be left alone.

It’s presumably one of those “in society’s interests” type things.

The theory would go something like this: * in order to maintain a just and peaceful society, and in all of our interests, police officers must be able to perform their duties unencumbered. One way of achieving this is to make the murder of a police officer so heinous a crime that even hardened criminals think twice about it. In this manner, the apprehension of said criminals becomes easier.*

This may be of interest - it’s a 2006 report by the Law Society to the Government about reform of murder categories.

There is a specific section dealing with killing of on-duty police officers - specifically that if someone would otherwise be charged with “second-degree” murder, where this involved the police it would automatically become “first-degree” murder.

(Note: in the UK we do not currently make the distinction between categories of murder; we have manslaughter as a lesser charge but it’s a different category of crime).

The conclusion the Law Society came to is that having a special category for police murders would be more trouble that it’s worth in this particular scenario, but they do support the idea of having particularly tough penalties for killing of police.

That, and/or

You kill a cop => you have no respect for law and order => you are a menace to society => you should be locked up to protect the rest of us.

As compared to, say, the guy who shoots his wife’s lover, who may not be considered so much of a dangerous criminal in the general sense. That’s the logic, at least.

Digging into the Troubles is a potential minefield of epic proportions but another factor could be that the police weren’t welcome into Catholic areas for whatever historic reasons, being attacked if they did so, therefore becoming more hesistant and ineffective when attending resulting in increased crime, increasing lack of respect for and anger towards uniformed officers, and an ever deepening spiral of violence and disintegration of normal methods of social control.

Of course it also suits the IRA that the police couldn’t operate effectively in their areas but they didn’t mind the fire brigade, the fire brigade wasn’t out to arrest them!

But as with anything to do with Northern Ireland its a complex problem, as the saying goes, if you have the answer you didn’t understand the question…

I’m wondering if higher sentences for attacks on police is enshrined in law like those surrounding hate crimes (another interesting subject and one I’m not comfortable with though I understand the rationale) or just generally accepted but not formally written down.

I’m pretty sure that Friday’s rationale went something like this:

When a criminal kills a police officer, he’s showing a willingness to go up against an armed and trained man (1968, after all) with little regard for his own safety or the consequences of his actions. So this is the sort of criminal that would presumably be even more free with his predations and the more unarmed and more defenseless members of society.

Just look to the deterioration of Mexico under the ascendancy of the drug lords.

They need to take over an area, they just off the local constabulary (and sometimes the mayor). It is a force multiplier, just take out the police, and you have secured an area for your own use. If you went into a town and killed half the citizenry but left the police intact, you would still have a problem.

UK sentancing guidelines do appear to take into account the murder of a police officer in determining the length of punishment, although it’s counted as an example of “an exceptionally serious” offence (among many other examples) which allows certain sentances to be passed (e.g. a whole life order).

Good points raised so far.

Because of the nature of their work, police officers are particularly likely to go in harm’s way and to deal with violent criminals in less than ideal situations. The law extends them additional protection because of this, and because they bear the authority of the state in carrying out the laws of the state. It’s not that they’re necessarily morally worthier or better people, as such. We want bad guys to be more reluctant to harm cops because they know they’ll be sentenced more harshly if they do.

Under Ohio law, murder of a police officer engaged in his duties, murder for the purpose of killing a police officer, and murder for the purpose of escaping detention, apprehension, trial, or punishment for another offense may all lead to a charge of aggravated murder and, upon conviction, the imposition of the death penalty.

It might be unrelated to any particular divide but attacks on the Fire Brigade seem relatively common in Northern Ireland. I don’t know whether it’s worse than the UK norm but one rarely hears of attacks of this nature down here south of the border.

I feel its difficult to justify this philosophically/morally and is probably a good a candidate for GD (is one persons life worth more than anothers?) For instance, why should a loved one of mine who is not a public figure nor puts herself in harm’s way get 2nd hand treatment if killed? Clearly, the resources and manpower are there to take this hypothetical murder more seriously.

On a practical front, the police are its own political entity and as such can dictate things like this without any other justification other than “he shot one of ours and we’re going to get him.” Police, even without a formal order to find a police killer, may simply volunteer their time to do so thus making it a de facto order. I feel the justifications come later, especially from people who don’t want to argue with motivated and pissed off officers.

This happens in the military too. There’s more of an emphasis to get your enemy if they’ve already killed someone close to you. I remember a scene from Restrepo where the guys were talking about how they’re going to advance into a dangerous situation to avenge a couple of their dead buddies, when it seemed a lot more reasonable to pull out.

My take on all this is that humans are greatly motivated by revenge. The philosophy of “protecting the protector” is really tacked on, although it has merits of its own, but I feel the motivator is there naturally.

In practice, it’s probably more cops looking out for themselves, something which in my opinion they sadly do far too much of (not all individuals of course).

But there is a valid theory for it. The basic idea is that even for a cold-blooded murderer, the consequences for resisting arrest with deadly force are going to be worse than anything he might already be facing for the crime he’s being arrested for. If the penalties for killing a cop isn’t any worse than for what he’s done, he doesn’t really have much incentive to go quietly.

It’s similar to why, in non-criminal matters, penalties for falsifying or lying on documents are often worse than the penalty for the violation the document would describe (were it filled out honestly). It seems kind of paradoxical or stupid – why is a paperwork violation worse than the actual act that endangers people? – but we don’t want people thinking that they’ve got nothing to lose by lying about things.
We’d rather

I remember in Derry seeing posters and news stories saying please don’t throw bricks at the emergency responders, and the problem seemingly extended beyond the RUC to the ambulance service and maybe fire.