Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the Committee’s markup of the Protect and Serve Act (H.R. 5698). This bill, introduced by Representatives John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.), provides a significant deterrent for those seeking to attack police officers.
Chairman Goodlatte: Today we are considering the Protect and Serve Act, a bill that will allow federal prosecution of those who seek to harm our nation’s law enforcement officers.
The number of ambush-style killings of law-enforcement officers has increased significantly in recent years. In 2016, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, such killings had risen by 250 percent from the year before and were at their highest level in ten years.
Only last month, two Sheriffs’ deputies were senselessly murdered while they sat and ate lunch in Gainesville, Florida. Last week, a Chicago gang leader shot an ATF agent as the agent attempted to place a tracker on his car.
These ambush shootings are particularly abhorrent acts. Our courageous men and women in law enforcement place their lives on the line each day to protect and serve – they now must worry about being targets due to their already stressful profession. Furthermore, these attacks are a threat to public order and a challenge to the authority of the State. They fundamentally undermine a functional society.
The bill will help deter these vicious attacks by permitting federal prosecution of anyone who knowingly causes serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer, where the crime either affects interstate commerce or where the victim is a federal law enforcement officer. This bill adheres to principles of federalism by requiring that, in order to bring a federal case under this statute, the Attorney General must certify that either the State does not have jurisdiction; the State has requested the Federal government assume jurisdiction; the results in a State prosecution left the Federal interest in public safety unvindicated; or a federal prosecution is otherwise necessary to secure substantial justice.
I want to thank my distinguished colleagues, Sheriff Rutherford and Chief Demings, for introducing this bill. I also want to thank and recognize the brave men and women of law enforcement and their advocates, many of whom are with us in the hearing room today. Without objection, letters of support for H.R. 5698 from the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association, will be included in the record.
Put simply, police officers are the thin blue line between a functional society and anarchy. We must ensure that when these officers are targeted based upon the uniform they wear, and the job they do, the punishment is sufficient to deter any further attacks.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.