VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two police officers have been assaulted in less than one week in Hampton Roads and it's a trend that has increased dramatically across the nation.
Virginia already has some mandatory sentencing laws on the books to deal with attacks on police, but legislating morality is a difficult
— if not impossible
— task and not without risks.
"When you assault a police officer, you're assaulting the society that you live in,” Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle said.
Stolle was a state legislator in 1994 who amended a bill that raised the crime of assault on an officer from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"You're going to get convicted of a felony. You're going to get a mandatory minimum of six months in jail. The judge can give up to five years if he or she wants to."
Don Haley heads the Justice Program at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach. He has also served as a police officer in Hampton Roads and remembers when the simple assault of an officer was only a misdemeanor.
"At the same time, it was a felony to assault a police animal, so I'm glad that Ken Stolle got that legislation approved,” Haley said.
But tougher sentencing is not without risks according to Haley and may actually be contributing to the violence.
"With your mandatory sentencing guidelines, a lot of individuals are saying, ‘Hey, I'm not getting caught. I'm not going to jail, I'm going to prison.’ That could be another contributing factor."
"The bottom line is if they're willing to assault a police officer they're willing to injure anybody in the community and it's got to be dealt with swiftly and severely by the courts,” Stolle added. “And I think for the most part it is."
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