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Bill Would Make Targeted Attacks Against State and Local Law Enforcement a New Federal Crime

Washington, DC— US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced legislation today to address ambushes and violence against police officers. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018creates a new federal crime for targeted attacks on law enforcement officers.  Specifically, the bill makes it a federal crime to knowingly cause bodily injury to any person, or attempt to do so, because of the actual or perceived status of the person as a law enforcement officer.

“Every day, law enforcement officers across the country put their lives on the line to protect us from harm,” said Hatch. “We are all indebted to them for their sacrifices and their service to our communities, which is why we must do all that we can to protect them.  They know the risks, but what no law enforcement officer signs up for is to be violently ambushed simply for being a police officer.  These heinous, cowardly assaults are an attack not just on law enforcement, but on the rule of law.  The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 makes clear that no criminal will be able to escape justice when he singles out and assaults those who put on the badge every day to keep us safe.”

“In rural and urban areas alike, law enforcement officers face heightened risk every time they put on their uniforms,” Heitkamp said. “They work every day to keep our communities and families safe – an important and difficult job. We should honor their service by doing everything we can to protect them, and we must address targeted violence toward peace officers across the country. Our bipartisan bill would make clear that attacks against law enforcement officers based on their role to protect and serve the community will be met with harsh penalties, and that these crimes will be elevated and prioritized. Our peace officers walk out the door every day not knowing what awaits them during the next shift – we must make sure that all of our officers know that we have their back when they report for duty to keep our communities strong and safe.” 

This bill has received support from major law enforcement groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, and others.

 

Statements of Support:

William J. Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations, Inc.

“The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 provides new criminal provisions for deliberate, targeted attacks on officers. This bill is critical, as there is a serious and growing trend of armed attacks on law enforcement officers. NAPO has long been fighting to establish stricter penalties for those who harm or target for harm law enforcement officers. NAPO strongly believes that increased penalties make important differences in the attitudes of criminals towards public safety officers, and ensure protection for the community.”

 Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police

“Our nation’s law enforcement officers face dangers every day in the course of protecting their communities, but now they face a new threat—deliberate attacks, often by ambush, by people who desire nothing more than to wound or kill an officer.  Finally, Congress has decided to act. The FOP is deeply grateful to Senator Hatch, who has long been a friend to law enforcement and whose leadership will be greatly missed after his retirement. Senator Heitkamp has proven to be a real partner to law enforcement and we appreciate her leadership on this issue.”

Background:

  • In October 2015, the US Department of Justice released a report, Ambushes of Police: Environment, Incident Dynamics, and the Aftermath of Surprise Attacks against Law Enforcement.  The report detailed the number of ambush attacks on law enforcement officers from 1990–2013.  In 2013 alone, more than 200 law enforcement officers were reportedly ambushed. The executive summary of the report states: “…the proportion of fatal attacks on officers attributable to ambushes is increasing. Concerns about targeted violence against police are on the rise, while officers must not only be guardians of the public but also be prepared to respond to violence targeting them.”
  • In November 2016, The Washington Post reported that ambush killings of police officers hit a 10-year high, with 21 such deaths.  That decreased to eight officers killed in ambush-style attacks in 2017, but these targeted attacks continue.  Just last month, two Florida sheriff’s deputies were killed in an ambush-style attack when they were shot through a restaurant window.
  • Since May 2016, several states have enacted laws that make attacking police because of their occupation a hate crime.  The Protect and Serve Act takes a similar approach and is modeled after the federal hate crime statute, 18 U.S.C. § 249.

Protect and Serve Act of 2018:

  • The legislation adds a new section to Chapter 7 of Title 18 that:
    • Makes it a federal crime to knowingly cause bodily injury to any person, or attempt to do so, because of the actual or perceived status of the person as a law enforcement officer;
    • Prescribes a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for a violation, or up to a life sentence in cases that result in death or involve kidnapping;
    • Requires that the offense have a federal nexus;
    • Requires certification by the Attorney General that a state has waived jurisdiction or that federal prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice; and
    • Requires the Attorney General to issue guidelines for determining whether a crime was committed because of the actual or perceived status of person as a law enforcement officer.

 

 

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