Buchanan Urges Crackdown on Cop Killers after Orlando Shooting
Police Shooting Deaths Up 56% Last Year
WASHINGTON – Citing the shooting death yesterday of a police officer in Orlando, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan called for passage of his bill making it easier to impose the death penalty against cop killers.
Orlando police officer Debra Clayton, a 17-year veteran of the department, was shot to death Monday morning while trying to arrest a murder suspect. An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy was killed hours later in an auto accident while pursuing the alleged killer, who was wanted in the slaying of his pregnant former girlfriend.
“These vicious attacks against police must end,” Buchanan said. “My legislation sends a strong message to those who target police – you will be held accountable.”
Buchanan’s Thin Blue Line Act, H.R. 115, would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter or other first responder an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.
The number of police officer deaths from shootings increased 56 percent nationally in 2016, according to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), praised Buchanan’s bill, saying assaults against police have increased sharply in recent years. In 2016 alone, ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers increased by 167 percent, according to NAPO.
“Establishing stricter penalties for those who harm or target law enforcement officers will deter crime,” Johnson said. “Any persons contemplating harming an officer must know that they will face serious punishments.”
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, also voiced his organization’s strong support for the legislation. “It is our job to protect others but it should not be ‘part of the job’ to be a target of someone who is looking simply to kill a cop.”
The legislation would be applicable whether the person is murdered on duty, because of the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official. It covers federal, state, and local police officers, firefighters and first responders. The only requirement is that the homicide involve federal jurisdiction, such as the interstate homicide of an officer, or an officer killed on federal land, or while serving as part of a joint task force.
Although federal law enforcement officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved in the Orlando manhunt, it is unclear whether Buchanan’s bill would apply in this circumstance.
“We owe a great debt to police officers and first responders across the country,” Buchanan said. “Just as we recently witnessed during the Fort Lauderdale airport attack, these brave individuals put their lives on the line to keep us safe.”
The Orlando police shooting tragically took place on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and as Florida commemorates its First Responder Appreciation Week.