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David Griffith

David Griffith

David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.



Melanie Basich

Melanie Basich

Managing Editor Melanie Basich joined POLICE Magazine in 2000 (when her last name was still Hamilton). An award-winning journalist, she has covered such topics as agency budgets, officer suicide, emerging law enforcement technologies, and active shooter tactics. She writes and manages the product section of POLICE.
Editor's Notes

Bill Would Protect Fed Agents Who Intervene To Stop Violence

Federal law enforcement associations are urging the passage of the Officer Safety Act.

April 09, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

ATF Special Agent Will Clark. Photo: POLICE file
ATF Special Agent Will Clark. Photo: POLICE file

A federal bill introduced in Congress earlier this year would give special agents greater protection when intervening to stop a violent act, even if it's outside the scope of their duties.

Not surprisingly, the bill has drawn the support of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) and the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA).

Federal agents are typically reluctant to perform local law enforcement duties, because they could lose the support of their agency or face local prosecution.

"If an act of violence happens on the street, they aren't permitted to intervene because they're going to be judged by the scope of their employment," Jon Adler, FLEOA national president, told POLICE Magazine. "If an agent intervenes to stop someone, they're on their own."

Two versions of the Officer Safety Act of 2012 have been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 2276) and House of Representatives (H.R. 4309) that allow the removal of prosecutions of federal agents from local courts to a federal district court when the officer acted to protect an individual from a crime of violence, provided immediate assistance to an individual threatened with harm, or prevented the escape of a person involved in a crime of violence.

"The 'Officer Safety Act' is a priority for our organization and recognizes the need to protect the brave men and women in federal law enforcement who intervene, in good faith, to defend our citizenry from acts of violence," Adler said in a release.

Adler says the need for the law was highlighted during the 2010 prosecution of Will Clark, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Clark faced a murder trial in the U.S. Virgin Islands after he came to the defense of a neighbor's girlfriend during a domestic dispute.

The case was dismissed on Oct. 28, 2010 by the presiding judge.

"Special Agent Clark took lawful actions to protect an innocent woman from violence, yet faced a subsequent prosecution under local law," FBIAA President Konrad Motyka said in a release. "While the charges against Special Agent Clark were eventually dismissed, he was placed in improper peril."

Another rare case of a federal agent intervening to stop a crime came in December, when ATF Special Agent John Capano tried to stop a pharmacy robbery on Long Island. Capano was accidentally shot by a retired Nassau County Police lieutenant who also responded.

Federal agents are more likely to receive a fair and impartial trial in federal rather than local court, Motyka added.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Judiciary Committee members Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). The House version was sponsored by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the co-chairmen of the House Law Enforcement Caucus.

Related:

Supporters Rally for ATF Agent Facing Murder Charge in Virgin Islands

Case Dismissed Against ATF Agent Tried for Murder In Virgin Islands

Friendly Fire Likely Killed ATF Agent

Tags: Special Agents, ATF, FLEOA, Legislation, Off-Duty Incidents


Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Fed Cop @ 4/11/2012 7:20 AM

I wish they would extend that to all federal law enforcement officers, not just "Special Agents". I'm a federal police officer, and if I intervened outside my jurisdiction, as Agent Clark did, I'd be hung out to dry. My agency would, as a minimum, suspend me, but in all probability terminate me, for performing duties "outside the scope of employment".

Mike @ 4/11/2012 9:36 AM

The fact that this law is needed is shameful. Doing what’s right is always needed by everyone so that our communities are as safe as they could be. To criminally and administratively punish people for stepping in to protect those in need is a sign of the complete lack reasonableness in these situations.

FireCop @ 4/11/2012 12:32 PM

Are we absolutely kidding here? This is 2012 for Pete's sake. Get the law modified to include all Federal Officers and run the bill through for swift passage. It is ridiculous that we are even discussing this. Knock, knock....the lights are on but is anybody home in Washington? Be safe.

Fed Officer @ 4/11/2012 10:18 PM

I was a cop and deputy sheriff before I became a Federal Officer - wow what a change! The outfit I work for can't seem to come to grips with what we really are...are we LEO's or are we glorified clerks with guns? Our organization has some personnel classified as "Specialists" who wear the same uniform, but are unarmed; yet they can drive around marked vehicles that appear to be "police cars." If someone flags them down for help thinking they are cops, it could be a real disaster...same for armed officers as they are not trained for intervention. A law like this would be helpful, but just not for "Special Agents" as this leaves the rest of us in a Catch 22...a situation we've had to deal with for many years.

Frank @ 4/25/2012 5:40 PM

Mike I'm with you! So when your sworn in to serve and protect does the Federal government omit standard clauses or paragraphs for upholding the law? How about a bill with the death penalty for killing ANY LEO. That what is really needed in this country.

Fed Cop 2 @ 4/26/2012 3:36 AM

Fed Cop is 100% correct. Its sad but in the Federal Government only the Golden Haired 1811's so called Special Agents are considered true law enforcement. The rest of us uniformed 1801, 0083 and 0080's are treated like dirt. Most of us do not even get 6C or 12D LEO retirement either. FLEOA and the employing Federal agencies needs to wake up and realize we are the ones rolling around in the dirt with the bad guys. This type of Discrimination needs to end NOW!

JOHN @ 4/30/2012 4:35 AM

There are tens of thousands of officers in this country (sworn and contractor) employed by the various federal agencies with the same or similar training and equipment that could greatly increase public safety if they were granted full LEO status. I work in DOE Protective Forces and under 10 CFR 1047 WE ARE CONSIDERED FEDERAL PEACE OFFICERS. This law should be expanded to include everyone that is trained.

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