On Wednesday, state Attorney General Ashley Moody called on Congress to pass a proposal from two members of the Florida delegation to crack down on criminals who target law enforcement officers.
Last year, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., the former sheriff of Duval County, reintroduced the “Protect and Serve Act” with U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., as the main cosponsor. According to Rutherford’s office, the bill “would create federal penalties for individuals who deliberately target local, state, or federal law enforcement officers with violence.”
Moody went to bat for the proposal this week, including writing to Congress.
“The act provides for a federal prison term of up to 10 years for anyone who knowingly assaults a law enforcement officer, causing serious bodily injury under circumstances where the crime affects interstate or foreign commerce. The call to action follows a disturbing increase in line-of-duty deaths nationwide—there are more officer deaths so far this year than all of 2019,” Moody’s office noted.
“Legislation identical to the Protect and Serve Act of 2019 received overwhelming, bipartisan support in passing the U.S. House just a few years ago, then somehow stalled. But this act is needed now more than ever, as law enforcement officer deaths are rising at an alarming pace. I am calling on our congressional leaders to demonstrate courage and stand up for our officers who risk their lives daily to protect American communities we all love. Pass the act,” Moody said on Wednesday.
As Moody noted, the bill cleared the U.S. House in 2018 but failed to pass the U.S. Senate. Rutherford brought it back last year.
“As a career law enforcement officer and former sheriff, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” said Rutherford when he introduced the proposal. “That is why we are reintroducing the Protect and Serve Act, which the House passed last year with strong bipartisan support. I will keep fighting to ensure steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers and I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bipartisan bill signed into law. I want to thank Congresswoman Val Demings for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”
“Law enforcement officers have a tough job and it’s an extremely dangerous one,” said Demings. “I know, I did it for 27 years. Last year in Florida two sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed while they were at a restaurant, trying to grab a meal before going back on patrol. Both deputies were in their twenties. Tragically, 22 officers were shot in ambush-style attacks nationwide last year. As law enforcement officers continue to work to enforce the laws with the highest moral and ethical standards and build relationships with the communities they serve, let’s continue to work to keep them safe.”
The bill has been stalled before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for more than a year though Rutherford has added 35 more sponsors besides Demings. Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Greg Steube and Ted Yoho are also cosponsoring the proposal. There is no counterpart in the U.S. Senate, making it unlikely to clear in the final months of the current Congress.
The National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association and Major County Sheriffs of America are all backing Rutherford’s proposal.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.