WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — (9/9/19) There are calls to create federal legislation that would impose stiffer penalties for people who assault or kill any law enforcement officer.
It’s called the Protect and Serve Act. Some say it’s needed to protect police, others say it would led the federal government overstep its reach.
“There’s a war on law enforcement,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes. “There is definitely a crisis in public safety.”
Police officers say they need all the help they can get. Yoes wants to see more help from Congress.
“The protect and serve act is definitely our top priority,” said Yoes.
The act would make it a federal crime to assault or kill a law enforcement officer. Right now, charges are usually left to the states. Some opponents say that’s how it should stay.
“There really is no extra role for the federal government,” said John Malcolm with the Heritage Foundation. He says local authorities already have all the authority they need.
“Any judge, if somebody is convicted, is going to take into account it was a law enforcement officer who was assaulted or killed and will no doubt ratchet up the perpetrator’s sentence,” said Malcolm.
Some say the feds should look at crimes against police like they would any other victim targeted for a specific reason.
“Our view is if you die in the line of duty, if you’re attacked, and you’re ambushed we would hope the federal government would come in and treat that just the same as perhaps a civil rights violation,” said Jonathan Thompson with the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Malcolm says that could lead to confusion.
“Whose responsibility is to investigate and prosecute this crime? Is it the state’s responsibility, is it the federal government’s responsibility?” asked Malcolm.
The bill was introduced in February. It has supporters from both parties who say it’s long past time for Congress to act.
Supporters hope the bill gets a vote when Congress returns from summer recess.