GOP Senators: Police Lives Also Matter

| by Meg O'Connor
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Two Republican senators are pushing for tougher punishments against people who attack police officers, firefighters and criminal prosecutors.

Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Sessions of Alabama say that their legislation, The Thin Blue Line Act, pushes for stricter punishments against those who attack law enforcement officers, because there has been an increase in instances of violence against police, The Hill reports.

"It is important that 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," Toomey said in a statement on Sept. 29.

“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 in the same statement.

The bills seek to add to and expand a federal law; the current federal law states that juries in federal cases that are considering the death penalty must examine certain "mitigating" and "aggravating factors." Currently, that law only applies to cases involving the deaths of federal prosecutors or officers. Sessions and Toomey are looking to also apply these protections to cases involving the death of local police, firefighters and prosecutors. 

Some organizations supporting Sessions and Toomey's efforts include the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Union of Police Associations, the Fraternal Order of Police and AFL-CIO.

The senators say that their legislation follows similar legislation Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida introduced in the House last February.

 "This legislation will hopefully serve as an even greater deterrent and help protect the men and women who risk their lives for the safety and well-being of others," Jolly said of his proposed legislation in a statement on Feb. 9.

"Current federal law only cites the homicide of a federal public servant," he added. "This bill would close that loophole and treat all police equally under federal law."

The current proposed legislation appears to be a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which took off last year after several high-profile cases of police violence against African Americans.

Sources: Washington Examiner, The Hill

Photo credit: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe, WEBN-TV/Flickr