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.

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Comments on “House Subcommittee Passes Police-Protecting 'Thin Blue Line' Bill”

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32 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Weren’t they all up in arms about less laws and restrictions?
Why are they rushing to pass a pointless bill to get soundbites & support from police unions (who often push to have officers fired for misconduct put back on the job to abuse more citizens?)

Did we not have enough real problems in this country that we had time to waste on insipid bullshit?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yep, you need stronger laws if you want people to drink (and pay for) poisoned water, pay to support their own abusers, and increase surveillance over them.

Apparently, upholding the corrupt laws is more important than any form of common decency, basic human rights, or common good.

Oh, well. Full steam ahead to the totalitarian regime!

Personanongrata says:

US Congress: What is it Good For?

The law apparently does nothing more than signal supporters’ cop-supporting virtue.

This is what the morons in congress do for a living – when they’re not stealing our money under the guise of progressive taxation – they work on very important matters of state like passing feel good legislation, renaming bridges/highways/postoffices and completely abdicating their constitutional duties of providing oversight of the federal government and in declaring war.

A heartfelt thank you to US congress for completely selling out the republic and bankrupting an entire continent in your vainglorious quixotic quest for Pax Americana in order to keep us safe from the boogeyman du jour.

Congratulations you’ve done it was a bipartisan effort as republicans and democrats hand in hand have ensured generations of Americans will live in complete debt servitude (aka serfdom) in order that you may have your cake and eat it too.

My_Name_Here says:

Trying to ignore realtiy?

“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).”

Now I know you are trying to make your point and prove your opinion, but do you really think that fatalities are the only valid statistics for looking at violence against police? Is an officer shot but not killed not a victim? Is an officer punched, kicked, or otherwise assaulted not a victim?

I never thought I would see Techdirt going so low to try to justify their anti-establishment, anti-law, anti-law enforcement message.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trying to ignore realtiy?

“Police officer got punched? That’s terrible. Twelve year old kid got shot by a trigger happy cop? That’s just business.”

You don’t think civilians getting manhandled by “shoot first, ask later” cops to be alarming. Probably just a drop in the bucket, right? Why should we be outraged on their behalf?

Anonymous Coward says:

Not learning from lessons in history

The fact that politicians ad police unions want to "protect" those who are under no obligation to "protect and serve", even though that is the motto will only lead to further attacks on these same people. Civil uprising will be the result.

Giving people privileges without the attendant responsibilities only causes harm to those people and to everyone they come in contact with.

"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 first thing to do is to actually find out why there was any spike in violence and secondly, was the spike of any significance. If the trust in these people is wrong, then the fix is not increasing penalties against those who were violent against these people, but instead getting rid of those who have failed in their entrusted duty and appropriately punishing them for their actions would be more effective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not learning from lessons in history

“The first thing to do is to actually find out why there was any spike in violence and secondly, was the spike of any significance.”

I agree 100%. And while you’re at it, do the same for the supposed police brutality.
In this day and age, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, just what accusations can be thrown around.
I’m reminded of that scene from G.I Jane when she tells the senator that it appears that accusations are enough.

And while we’re on the subject, why do “protected classes” need special laws? Isn’t it still a crime to attack another person? If someone is trying to hurt another person, wouldn’t it be an obvious assumption that the one doesn’t like the other? Why the need for anything defining hate crimes? All violent crimes are a result of hate, are they not?

Why do I not see any outrage over new laws designed to protect these already protected classes? We already have enough laws protecting them. More than necessary, I would argue.

I am saddened by the hypocrisy in our country, and on this site.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not learning from lessons in history

And while we’re on the subject, why do “protected classes” need special laws? Isn’t it still a crime to attack another person? If someone is trying to hurt another person, wouldn’t it be an obvious assumption that the one doesn’t like the other? Why the need for anything defining hate crimes? All violent crimes are a result of hate, are they not?

Because if you hate a class, you have more incentive to commit a crime against someone who is a member of that class than you do against someone who is not, so the standard levels of counter-incentive from the general law may not be enough.

The idea behind hate-crime laws is to provide enough increased counter-incentive to discourage people from committing crimes against members of hated classes, without also unnecessarily (and perhaps harmfully) increasing penalties for crimes that don’t need that increased counter-incentive.

Anonymous Coward says:

This matters very little

Considering that the usual response to violence, even principled and respectful resistance – even total capitulation – offered to law enforcement is extra judicial summery execution (the phrase “suicide by cop” comes to mind), this will have little effect.

As a symbolic gesture, it is at least somewhat more economical than the 60 “symbolic” votes against the American Health Care act (AKA “Obammy Care” in case you are just as ignorant as I expect some to be.)

At least it was just one vote costing 3 million dollars versus the 60 at 3 million each.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hahaha, I think the Congress hysteria over violence against the police is only outdone by the hysteria in some of these comments.

Police deserve extra protection, do you bitch about your mail man having additional protections? How about the conductor on a train? Bus driver?

What a bunch of snowflakes. No, the cops are not out to hurt you (especially you keyboard warriors posting from your gated communities.)

TRX (profile) says:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2014-statistics-on-law-enforcement-officers-killed-and-assaulted

Officers killed, 2014: 96
51 by “felonious acts”
45 by work-related accidents

of the 51;
11 during domestic disturbance calls
9 doing traffic pursuits or stops
7 ambushed
7 “investigating suspicious circumstances”
5 other investigations
4 “tactical situations”
3 “handling persons with mental illnesses”
1 “unprovoked attack”

50 of the assailants had prior criminal arrests
11 were under “judicial supervision”

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