House Subcommittee Passes Police-Protecting 'Thin Blue Line' Bill
from the more-privilege-for-the-over-privileged! dept
There’s no shortage of existing laws protecting law enforcement officers. So, of course, there’s no shortage of new legislation being introduced to further protect a well-protected subset of government employees. Using a nonexistent “War on Cops” as impetus, legislators all over the nation are submitting bills designed to make harming a cop more of a crime than harming anyone else.
This isn’t just happening at the state level. Last year, Colorado representative Ken Buck introduced a federal “Blue Lives Matter” law, which would have turned attacks on cops into “hate crimes.” The bill is a ridiculous extension of protection to officers who aren’t in any more danger than they were a decade ago, histrionic statements by various federal officials notwithstanding.
Buck’s bill has gone nowhere in the last year. It’s been sitting in a House subcommittee since April of last year. But one bill’s failure doesn’t predict the future performance of similar legislation. As Reason’s C.J. Ciaramella reports, a similar bill — Florida rep Vern Buchanan’s “Thin Blue Line Act” — has cleared the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Thursday, the Thin Blue Line Act, by a 19-12 vote that would make the killing of a state or local law enforcement officer during the commission of a federal crime an aggravating factor for juries to consider when weighing a death penalty sentence.
All well and good, I suppose, although the bill is pretty much a carbon copy of Florida rep David Jolly’s 2015 proposal, right down to the bill’s name. Like Rep. Buck’s bill, Jolly’s made it as far as a committee referral before stalling out. Buchanan’s bill, however, now has a greatly increased chance of being pushed towards the President’s desk.
But to what end, asks Ciaramella? The law apparently does nothing more than signal supporters’ cop-supporting virtue.
The legislation would be largely symbolic. Federal death penalty cases are exceedingly rare, and executions at the federal level are even rarer. The last federal execution took place in 2001, when Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing. Most homicide cases are prosecuted by states.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte seems to feel the bill will be most useful when deployed in terrorism cases, but otherwise admits practical applications will be few and far between. The bill has support from police unions but, more importantly, it certainly has the support of the DOJ and the President. This bill caters to Trump’s “law and order” push and does a fair amount of sucking up to Attorney General Sessions himself.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced similar legislation in 2015, when he was a U.S. senator, saying “the alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped…”
The “alarming spike in violence” Sessions was apparently referring to was the increase of police killed in the line of duty by one over 2014’s total of 122… which itself was below the average for the preceding ten years (~150 per year).
The bill’s being tossed into a pretty receptive Congress. It won’t really need the support of powerful police unions, though — not when the head of the DOJ has previously expressed his legislative desire to give cops even more protection.