If a shoplifter takes a leather jacket from a store and assaults the police officer who attempts to arrest him, the theft is considered a more serious crime under state statute.

An assault on a police officer is a Class A misdemeanor while retail theft of items worth more than $250 is a third-degree felony.HB105, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, would make assault on an officer a third-degree felony, punishable by zero to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.

Dave Greer of Utah Coalition of Police, a statewide organization representing 15 police organizations, said increases in crime show society has become increasingly lawless.

"More and more so that's being directed at our police officers," Greer said.

Bill Samon, state president of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, and a former Philadelphia police officer also spoke in favor of the bill. "The number of assaults on police officers (in Utah) is staggering for the number of police officers," Samon said.

The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee passed the bill out favorably.