Legislation to impose federal penalties on people who deliberately target law enforcement officers for attack was introduced in both the House and Senate today.
The legislation titled the "Protect and Serve Act" has support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
National Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury said in a statement that he "applauded" the news that twin bills had been introduced in both houses of Congress.
"Already this year we have 87 officers shot in the line of duty and 28 of them were killed," Canterbury said. "This is 75% higher than this time last year. 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 ACLU issued a statement immediately after the bills were introduced. The statement said the Senate version of the bill designates deliberate attacks against police as a federal hate crime.
“This bill serves no purpose other than to further dangerous and divisive narratives that there is a ‘war on police.’ The House creation of a new criminal statute for offenses against police is superfluous, given the many existing federal and state laws that protect law enforcement officers specifically," Kanya Bennett, ACLU legislative counsel said. "The Senate’s version is nothing short of offensive to historically persecuted and marginalized communities across this country. Federal hate crimes laws were passed to correct the centuries of inaction and injustice that too often were the response to violence based on immutable traits and identities, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Under no possible interpretation could this definition include being a member of law enforcement. Congress should vote this down quickly and decisively."
The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). The House version of the bill was sponsored by John Rutherford (R-FL) and Val Demings (D-FL). Rutherford is the former sheriff of Duval County. Demings is the former Orlando chief of police.