Law Enforcement's Ability to Punish Cop-Killers Would be Strengthened under Gerlach Legislation
Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-06) introduced legislation that would give federal prosecutors an additional tool to punish criminals who kill or attempt to kill law enforcement officials.
"The killing of a law enforcement official, at any level of government, is a crime against our nation and the fabric of our society," said Congressman Gerlach. "These violent acts certainly warrant the death penalty, and this legislation would ensure that prosecutors will have the necessary tools to seek a just punishment for the offenders."
H.R. 3153, the "Death Penalty for Cop Killers Act of 2007," adds a new statutory aggravating factor in death penalty proceedings for the killing or attempted killing of a law enforcement officer. There are already 16 existing statutory aggravating factors for homicides, and this legislation will add a seventeenth to protect the nation's law enforcement officers.
"Congressman Gerlach's commitment to a violent free America and unfaltering support of law enforcement to achieve that goal is well known in his district," said Lower Merion Township Police Superintendent Joe Daly. "The proposed amendment sends the clear message that violent behavior directed at the defenders of the constitution will have severe consequences."
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 55 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the United States in 2005. The previous year, 57 officers were killed across the country. In the ten-year period from 1996 through 2005, a total of 575 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty, 102 of whom were killed in ambush situations such as entrapment or premeditated situations. If not for the advent of bulletproof vests, studies have shown that an additional 400 officers would have been killed over the last decade.
The legislation was introduced as part of a package of bills designed to address violent crimes throughout the country. The various bills are targeted to reduce violent crime, protect children from sexual predators, prevent terrorism and protect our national security, combat violent gangs, stop methamphetamine traffickers and guard against criminal aliens and smugglers.
Currently, 31 states - including Pennsylvania - have legislation that allows the killing or attempted killing of a law enforcement officer, witness or juror to be used as an aggravating factor in death penalty proceedings.
"Our communities have countless brave men and women who volunteer or spend their careers fighting crime and violence," added Congressman Gerlach. "This legislation is an equitable federal approach to punish those who senselessly take the life of these heroes."
The legislation has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.