Following a spate of violence directed at law enforcement, a pair of Republican Senators say the punishment for targeting law enforcement officers and first responders should be enhanced.
“It is important we send the message that police lives also matter, and that if you target a police officer with violence, you will receive a harsh penalty,” Sen Pat Toomey (R-PA) said Tuesday.
Toomey and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have introduced legislation to make the to make the murder of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other first responder an aggravating factor in favor of the death penalty. Current law already applies this penalty when the murder victim is a federal law enforcement officer or prosecutor.
The legislation comes in the wake of a number high profile murders of law enforcement officers, including Pennsylvania State Trooper Corporal Bryon Dickson and Philadelphia Officer Robert Wilson, III.
“Now, we see one officer after another targeted simply for the uniform he or she wears. Our law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and firefighters deserve to know that their lives also matter, and they have our support,” Toomey added. “Those who would murder a person simply because he or she wears blue deserve a harsh penalty. This legislation seeks to achieve those ends.”
The bill, called “Thin Blue Line Act” would also impose a harsher punishment if the defendant targeted the officer or first responder due to his profession. The bill was introduced earlier this month but announced Tuesday.
“The alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped,” Sessions said.
“The Thin Blue Line Act will help protect our officers by bringing harsher penalties to criminals committing these vile acts and by extending the protections afforded to federal officers to our local police and first responders,” he added. “This legislation honors the message sent by law-abiding Americans that we cannot stand idly by as attacks are waged upon those who serve and protect our communities.”
A similar bill was introduced by Rep. David Jolly earlier this year. Sen. Ted Cruz is also co-sponsoring the Senate companion.