President Donald Trump speaks during a swearing-in ceremony for new Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) at the White House in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2017. REUTERS

President Donald Trump called Thursday for legislation creating new crimes that could be used to prosecute acts of violence against law enforcement. Civil rights advocates have criticized this type of legislation, arguing that there are harsh penalties for assaulting officers already on the books, and that these laws could be used to make resisting arrest a hate crime.

Trump issued three executive orders at the White House swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. One of the executive orders, titled "Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers," called for legislation to classify new crimes related to assaulting or attacking law enforcement officers.

In announcing the executive order, Trump said he was directing the Justice Department to develop a plan to stop crimes and violence directed at law enforcement. "It's a shame what's been happening to our truly great law enforcement officers," Trump said.

The executive order also asks the Justice Department to work with other federal agencies to make recommendations to the president about new legislation that would protect law enforcement officers working at the federal, state, tribal and local levels. Some of that legislation could be laws "defining new crimes of violence" and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for crimes already on the books, Trump said.

Trump's action follows local efforts to increase penalties for attacking police officers. Often described as "Blue Lives Matter" bills, legislation that would make attacking officers a hate crime has been introduced in several states. Louisiana became the first state in the nation to adopt such a bill last year. In Kentucky, a similar bill was approved Wednesday by a House committee. Last month, a state Senate judiciary committee in Mississippi sent a "Blue Lives Matter" bill to the full Senate for a vote. Lawmakers introduced similar bills in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania last year.

Sixty-four officers were shot and killed on duty in 2016, up from 41 in 2015, but lower than the recent high of 73 recorded in 2011.