U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) today applauded House passage of the Officer Safety Act, (H.R. 4309), a bipartisan bill he authored with colleague Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-08), his co-chair on the House Law Enforcement Caucus. The bill, introduced in March, would allow off-duty federal law enforcement officers who intervene to protect or assist an individual in danger to be considered as having acted under the "color of office." Thereby, allowing officers charged with a crime in state court under these circumstances an opportunity to petition to have their case heard before a federal court.
"Our federal law enforcement agents are highly trained professionals who put themselves in harm's way to protect our communities each and every day. This legislation will allow these brave federal agents continue to protect Americans whether they are on or off duty," said Rep. Pascrell. "I am proud to help advance this bipartisan legislation on behalf of dedicated federal agents throughout the country who work to keep us safe."
"As a former Sheriff I know that for law enforcement officers there is no "off duty.' Every day, on and off the job, they risk their lives to protect the innocent. We owe these brave men and women the assurance that they can continue to focus on serving the American people at all times knowing their rights are protected." Reichert said.
The Officer Safety Act of 2012 is modeled after the Good Samaritan Act, but is more restrictive and provides no liability protection. The bill does not provide immunity to federal law enforcement officers, but simply allows for case removal to federal court where the officer will be required to defend his or her actions. The bill also doesn't infringe upon states' rights, as they retain the same due process rights that have existed since the early 1800's. Specifically, the Officer Safety Act of 2012 allows a federal law enforcement agent who stops a violent crime while off-duty and is indicted in a state court for those actions, to petition for the state criminal prosecution against him to be removed to a federal court, and clarifies the "color of law" prong required in the removal process.
Background: This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, and the National Border Patrol Council. Senator Grassley and Senator Coons introduced the Senate companion legislation in March of 2012. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, Senator Grassley offered the legislation as an amendment. This amendment passed by unanimous consent on November 30, 2012 and was included in the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House today.