Poe and Cornyn Introduce Back the Blue Act of 2017

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and I introduced the Back the Blue Act of 2017, a bill that would increase the penalties for criminals who intentionally target law enforcement officers, and provide new tools for officers to protect themselves. The legislation also approves grant funding to foster relationships between the police departments and the local communities.

In the first five months of 2017, 44 officers have been killed in the line of duty, including two Texas lawmen. Just last month, Houston’s own Assistant Chief Deputy Clint Greenwood (Harris County Constable’s Office, Precinct 3) was ambushed, targeted specifically because he wore the uniform. In January, Little Elm Police Department Detective Jerry Walker was shot responding to the scene of a shootout. These brave men’s lives may be gone, but their memory serves as a reminder of all those who give their lives for the thin blue line.

As a prosecutor and Judge for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of America’s best, the men and women in blue. Each day they wake up, place the badge—the shield—over their heart and head out into our communities to protect us. The dastardly criminals who intentionally target those who serve the thin blue line must not be allowed to walk free. The Back the Blue Act increases the punishment for those who seek to harm our peace officers. Today, Congress is sending the message that blue lives matter.

“Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve families across Texas. Violent criminals who deliberately target those who protect and serve our communities should face swift and tough penalties and the Back the Blue Act sends that clear message. Every day, and particularly during National Police Week, we must give the men and women in blue our unparalleled support,” Sen. Cornyn said. 

The Back the Blue Act of 2017 is endorsed by: Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America, Major City Chiefs of America, Sergeants Benevolent Association, National Association of Police Organizations, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Background on the Back the Blue Act

Strengthens Laws to Protect Police Officers

  • Creates a new federal crime for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to the death penalty and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if death results; the offender would otherwise face a minimum sentence of 10 years.
  • Creates a new federal crime for assaulting a federally funded law enforcement officer with escalating penalties, including mandatory minimums, based on the extent of any injury and the use of a dangerous weapon. However, no prosecution can be commenced absent certification by the Attorney General that prosecution is appropriate.
  • Creates a new federal crime for interstate flight from justice to avoid prosecution for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for this offense.

Creates a Specific Aggravating Factor for Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions

  • Clarifies that the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer or first responder is a statutory aggravating favor for purposes of the federal death penalty.

Limits Federal Habeas Relief for Murders of Law Enforcement Officers

  • Imposes time limits and substantive limits on federal courts’ review of challenges to state-court convictions for crimes involving the murder of a public safety officer, when the public safety officer was engaged in the performance of official duties or on account of the performance of official duties. These changes are consistent with the fast-track procedures created in 1996, which are applied to federal death penalty cases.

Limits Recovery of Certain Damages and Fees for Individuals Engaged in Felonies

  • Limits the type of civil damages and attorney’s fees recoverable by a criminal as a result of purported injuries incurred during the commission of a felony or crime of violence.

Expands Self-Defense and Second Amendment Rights for Law Enforcement Officers

  • Allows law enforcement officers, subject to limited regulation, to carry firearms into federal facilities and other jurisdictions where such possession is otherwise prohibited.

Opens Up Funding to Strengthen Relationships Between Police and Communities

  • Expands opportunities to use grant funding to promote trust and improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve

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