I would like to personally thank the Northern York County Regional and Southwestern Regional police departments, as well as the Shiloh Fire Department for putting on excellent National Night Out events earlier this week.

The night was a great opportunity for residents to meet the men and women who serve and protect us daily. Sadly, most people only interact with police officers during bad situations, such as when they are pulled over or are victims of a crime. Rarely do residents have the chance to have relaxed, one-on-one conversations with officers.

I had a wonderful time talking with constitutes and officers at all three events. Each event had fantastic turnouts and it was great to see such gratitude shown by residents to police.

Events like National Night Out give us all a chance to see officers in a light not seen daily or reported on the evening news. All too often we only hear about the police when something horrible happens, such as when a crime occurs, police-involved shootings or attacks on officers, like the vicious attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La. that left officers dead.

Most recently, there was the reported attack on police officers in Columbia, Lancaster County, this past weekend, the eve of National Night Out. Thankfully, no officers were injured and the alleged perpetrators were quickly arrested. Despite the violence, officers there went ahead with events Tuesday evening and the community came out in droves to show their appreciation for law enforcement.

To further help safeguard police officers from meaningless violence, Rep. Dave Zimmerman of Lancaster County introduced legislation to add first responders to the list of those who are protected under Pennsylvania’s hate crimes statute.

House Bill 2268, aptly called Blue Lives Matter Legislation, was grimly inspired by the recent killings of officers and other attacks on first responders. It specifies anyone who targets fire, police or emergency medical services personnel for violence or intimidation would face hate crimes charges and stiff penalties.

The common-sense bill has my full support and I strongly urge my colleagues in the House to quickly send it to the Senate for its approval and ultimately to the governor for his signature.

We all have to remember officers are on the front lines protecting us from bad elements in our society and they more than deserve to have greater protection. We need to say loud and clear that violence against our law enforcement community is not tolerable, nor acceptable in Pennsylvania.

Though the legislation is one way to help protect the people who protect us, there are others. Simply getting to know the person behind the badge is quite possibly the best way to eliminate this senseless violence. That’s what makes events like National Night Out such a success. Its people coming together to learn more about officers.

— Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, represents the 196th Legislative District in the Pa. House of Representatives.

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