Feb. 24 2017 - Atlanta - Senator Tyler Harper presents SB 160. The senate passed SB 160, the “Back the Badge Act of 2017”, which expands the definition of assault/battery on-duty law enforcement officers, including a new mandatory sentence requirement. It also adds juveniles to the list of those who can be penalized. The 24th day of the Georgia General Assembly. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

‘Back the Badge’ bill passes state Senate

State Senators passed a bill Thursday designed to support the efforts of law enforcement officials in the state.

Dubbed the “Back the Badge Act,” Senate Bill 160 increases punishment to individuals who commit certain crimes against public safety officers.

House committee members changed the definition in the bill from peace officer to public safety officer to clarify that “only those individuals who wear the badge” would be protected. They also decreased the mandatory minimum sentence from five years to three years for individuals who use items other than a firearm to assault officers.

The bill includes language from House Bill 258, which related to the use of a firearm in aggravated assault, and from Senate Bill 154, which imposed civil fines on such actions.

The Sine Die 2017 preview edition of Georgia Legislative Week in Review with Aaron Gould Sheinin, Kristina Torres and the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Public Safety Committee Chairman Tyler Harper said the bill was updated “to make sure it’s clear we’re referring to individuals who willfully and knowingly” take aggressive action against officers. “That is the intent of the law,” Harper said.

Civil rights groups took offense to a section of the bill that targeted individuals who blocked public passages, such as highways, streets and sidewalks.

Committee members removed that section to Harper’s objection, but he said he was still “good with the underlying bill.”

The bill, which passed 49-3, now moves to the Governor’s desk.

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