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UPDATE: Chief clarifies use of hate crime law - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

UPDATE: Chief clarifies use of hate crime law

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ST. MARTINVILLE, La. -

St. Martinville Police do not equate resisting arrest with a hate crime, the chief said Thursday.

Chief Calder Hebert said his officers review new laws when they take effect, and each officer applies those laws according to his understanding and discretion in the field. 

In recent stories, we've reported that the state's new hate crimes law was being used by officers in resisting arrest investigations. In a telephone interview today, Calder clarified that information.

Calder said he was speaking in general terms, in an attempt to explain police procedure to civilians in the simplest possible language. Calder said one of his officers has arrested someone under the new law, because that officer felt he was being targeted for violence because he's a police officer. 

When police officers arrest someone on a certain charge, that's not the end of the process, he added. The District Attorney decides what law or charge fits the circumstances, he said. 

Calder said his officers absolutely understand the difference between resisting arrest and a hate crime. Still, the chief told a local news station earlier this week that he stood by his original statements to KATC.

First Assistant District Attorney Robert Chevalier said he's spoken with Calder about the application of the law. He reiterated Calder's statement about the DA's office role: police officers book suspects on the charges they feel are appropriate, but the DA decides what charges will be prosecuted, based on the circumstances of the case and the law, he said. 

Earlier today, Governor John Bel Edwards posted on his Facebook page this morning that the state's hate crime law clearly does not include resisting arrest. He provided a link to the law, but if you'd like to read you can also just scroll down. 

Here's our original story: 

The state's new "Blue Lives Matter" law is already being used here in Acadiana. In the last year, Louisiana became the first state to offer hate crime protections to police officers.

St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Hebert hopes the law will not only save lives, but make offenders think twice before resisting arrest.

"We don't need the general public being murdered for no reason and we don't need officers being murdered for no reason. We all need to just work together," said Hebert.

Hebert is very familiar with the new hate crime law, having already enforced it since it took effect in August.

"Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now," said Hebert.

Under the new law, Hebert says any offender who resists, or gets physical, with an officer can be charged with a felony hate crime.

For example, if someone who's arrested for petty theft, a misdemeanor, tries to assault an officer, that individual can be charged with a hate crime. A hate crime is considered a much more serious offense, with serious consequences.

"We need the police and the public to work together. The policemen have a job. The public has the job of helping the police. And if someone happens to be involved in criminal activity. Let the courts handle it. Don't resist physically," said Hebert.

If the state's new law proves successful, Hebert said he hopes the rest of the country will adopt similar laws.

"These guys go out there everyday and the main goal is to protect the public and go home at the end of the day. This is one step in making that happen. Hopefully, the rest of the nation follows suit," said Hebert.

Here's the state's hate crime law: 

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