State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it a major crime to attack a police officer, deputy or any other peace officer while they are off duty and out of uniform.
It's already a felony to attack or hit on officer when they are on the job, but it's only a misdemeanor if someone does it when they are off the clock.
Republican Representative Mike Sanders of Kingfisher co-authored the bill. Sanders said several officers and retired lawmen came to him expressing their frustration with the double standard.
Sanders drafted House Bill 1318 to upgrade the charge in order to make criminals think twice about going after an off duty officer, while he or she is alone or with family.
“What we're trying to do is just protect those law enforcement officers who protect us,” said Sanders. “Put some real teeth behind it, and give our officers another tool in their toolbox.”
You may remember the case of Chad Peery, who was off duty when he was brutally attacked and left paralyzed by three men he was trying to escort out of a bar.
His father Greg was with him the day of the attack.
“He did more than once notify the individuals that were there, that he was an off duty police officer,” remembers Greg Peery. ”It didn't make a difference whatsoever. In fact, I'm not sure it didn't fuel it more!”
All three men pleaded guilty and received prison time for the attack, which left Chad Peery paralyzed from the chest down.
Greg Peery and his wife now have a room specifically dedicated to Chad. It is full of special memories from his time as an officer and from his recovery after the attack.
Chad unfortunately died in an unrelated car accident two years later.
But his parents want this bill to become law to protect other officers, and to make criminals think twice before raising their fists.
“I think it needs to be done,” said Greg Peery. “They need all the protection they can get!”
Both Sanders and Peery said they have heard from both retired and active lawmen about the problem of criminals stalking them and confronting them at their homes, at restaurants, even at their kid's schools.
“In the rural areas, everyone knows everybody, they are related to everyone. And so they follow them,” said Sanders. “I kid you not!”
Sanders hopes the bill will make those criminals more accountable in court by making it a felony charge, and give the current misdemeanor law on the books “more teeth”.
Greg Peery agreed.
“Anything they can do to put teeth in it, that would be awesome,” said Peery.
House Bill 1318 already passed the House by a vote of 83-2. It now goes to the Senate for their consideration.