JUST NOW: House Passes Buchanan’s Thin Blue Line Act
Ambush-Style Killings Jumped 167 Percent in 2016
WASHINGTON –The U.S. House today passed Congressman Vern Buchanan’s legislation to toughen penalties against cop killers.
Buchanan’s Thin Blue Line Act would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter or other first responder an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations. The bill, approved by the House in a 271-143 vote, now goes to the Senate for consideration.
“America’s police officers and first responders are the first ones on scene to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said. “These brave men and women and their families put it all on the line and deserve our unwavering support. Getting this bill signed into law will protect those who serve our communities and send a clear message: targeting or killing our first responders will not be tolerated.”
This is Buchanan’s second bill of 2017 to pass the U.S. House. His What Works To Move Welfare Recipients into Jobs Act was recently signed into law.
Several Suncoast police chiefs and sheriffs expressed their support for Buchanan’s bill, including the Sarasota County and Hillsborough County sheriff’s offices, Sarasota Police Department, Bradenton Police Department, Palmetto Police Department and Holmes Beach Police Department.
“The millions of brave men and women who go to work every day as first-responders and police officers should not be targeted solely because of the profession they have chosen or the uniform they wear,” Holmes Beach Police Chief William L. Tokajer said. “As a police chief and a law enforcement officer who has been shot in the line of duty, I truly want to thank Congressman Buchanan for having our back, it means more than you’ll ever know to the officer and their families.”
There have been 50 line-of-duty deaths so far this year, a 39 percent spike from this time in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
That increase comes on top of last year’s jump in ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers, which spiked 167 percent compared to 2015, according to the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).
“Every day, men and women in law enforcement choose to put their lives on the line to protect others while leaving family members at home to worry if their loved one will return safely,” Sarasota Police Department Chief Bernadette DiPino said. “The Thin Blue Line Act will take a strong stand against violence to police officers and show criminals their actions will not be tolerated.”
More than a dozen state and national first responder organizations back Buchanan’s bill, including NAPO, National Fraternal Order of Police, Major Counties Sheriffs of America, American Federation of Government Employees and others.
Buchanan also praised former U.S. Rep. David Jolly who introduced the bill in the 114th Congress.
“Establishing stricter penalties for those who harm or target law enforcement officers will deter crime,” NAPO Executive Director William J. Johnson said. “Any persons contemplating harming an officer must know that they will face serious punishments.”
The Thin Blue Line Act 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.