Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan‘s legislation to toughen penalties against cop killers has passed the House.
The “Thin Blue Line Act” would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter or other first responders an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.
The bill, approved by the House in a 271-143 vote, now goes to the Senate for a vote.
“America’s police officers and first responders are the first ones on-scene to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said. “These brave men and women and their families put it all on the line and deserve our unwavering support. Getting this bill signed into law will protect those who serve our communities and send a clear message: targeting or killing our first responders will not be tolerated.”
The bill was introduced in the last session of Congress by then-Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas County, who lost his bid for re-election last November.
There have been 50 line-of-duty deaths so far this year, a 39 percent spike from this time in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
That increase comes on top of last year’s jump in ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers, which spiked 167 percent compared to 2015, according to the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).
More than a dozen state and national first responder organizations back Buchanan’s bill, including NAPO, National Fraternal Order of Police, Major Counties Sheriffs of America, American Federation of Government Employees and others.
The Thin Blue Line Act would be applicable whether the person is murdered on duty, because of the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official. It covers federal, state and local police officers, firefighters and first responders.
The only requirement is that the homicide involves federal jurisdiction, such as the interstate homicide of an officer, or an officer killed on federal land, or while serving as part of a joint task force.