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Monday, May 20th, 2024

Protect and Serve Act would elevate the harming or attempted harm of law enforcement to a federal crime

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Following the deaths of four police officers while executing an arrest warrant in North Carolina last week, a group of U.S. senators introduced the Protect and Serve Act (S. 4258) to turn attempts to harm or successfully harming a law enforcement officer into a federal crime.

Traditionally, such crimes are elevated to federal crimes when they are against federal officers or on federal land, but this would make all law enforcement backed by federal protections when the federal government can establish jurisdiction over the case.

“Law enforcement officers in North Carolina and across the country are heroes who risk their lives every day to protect our communities,” U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who led the bill (R-NC), said. “Those who commit senseless acts of violence against law enforcement officers must be held accountable for their actions, which is why I am proud to reintroduce this legislation that creates federal penalties for criminals who target law enforcement. They put their lives on the line to protect us, and we should do the work in Congress to protect them.”

Backed by police groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, Sergeant Benevolent Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition and the National Association of Police Organization, the bill would subject offenders under the new stipulations to imprisonment for up to 10 years. That would up to potential life sentences if a death were to result from the offense, or in cases of kidnapping, attempted kidnapping or attempted murder.

According to data from the National Fraternal Order of Police, 378 officers were short in the line of duty last year, leading to 46 deaths.

“Our brave law enforcement officers in West Virginia and across the country risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe, and we have a responsibility in Congress to do everything we can to protect them on the job,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the sole Democrat to cosponsor the bill, said. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Protect and Serve Act to ensure individuals who commit or attempt to commit violence against these heroes are held accountable through harsher federal penalties.”

Other cosponsors included U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Tillis first introduced the Protect and Serve Act in 2020.