LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The Lawton Police Department said they're happy about a bill Governor Mary Fallin signed into law this week making the punishment for killing a police officer harsher.
Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1306, known as the "Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017." When the law takes effect in November, anyone convicted of killing a police officer will either be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. In the past, life with parole was an option.
Sergeant Timothy Jenkins with the Lawton Police Department said he fully supports the bill and is glad the governor signed it into law.
"I think it's the right decision to make," Jenkins said. "Obviously, there's a case by case basis for everything that happens out there but I think with something like this in place, it's a great decision that's being made for our state as a whole."
Sergeant Jenkins said he thinks the bill could potentially help stop future crimes against officers.
"With everything going on across the nation, with cops being killed across the nation, with all the issues we're having I believe the bill doing something like that will possibly deter people from doing things like that and take a different approach to how they handle things when they come into contact with a police officer," Jenkins said.
Representative Scott Biggs, who represents District 51 which covers much of Stephens County, co-authored the bill and said deterring crime is a big part of why this bill was written.
"The goal here is to change behavior," Biggs said. "To make sure people know if you shoot a law enforcement officer into the line of duty, you've got two options plain and simple."
Representative Biggs said the bill has actually been in the works for several months.
"These tragedies here the past month just bring this to the forefront that our officers who are putting their lives on the line every single day, day and night for every person in this state are simply under attack," Biggs said. "So, it was extremely important for us to pass this piece of legislation to let them know somebody is looking out for them."
Representative Biggs said the bill did not pass the house unanimously and may face some criticism, but ultimately, he said it is the right thing to do.
"At the end of the day for me it's a simple answer," Biggs said. "I support law enforcement officers, the majority of the house supports law enforcement officers, the senate, the governor, the general public wants us to support law enforcement officers and that's exactly what we did with this bill."