Representatives Dave Reichert (WA-08) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8), co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, and Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Chris Coons of Delaware yesterday introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would allow federal law enforcement officers who acted under their official duties and charged with a crime in state court an opportunity to petition to have the agent's case heard before a federal court.
"As a former Sheriff I know far too well that law enforcement officers are never "off duty.' Every day, they earn our trust and often step in to save lives and protect the innocent while risking their own safety--regardless of whether they are on or off the job. We owe these brave men and women this assurance so they can continue to focus on serving the American people," Reichert said.
"This legislation will allow federal agents to protect Americans, whether they are on or off duty. Our federal law enforcement agents are highly trained professionals who often go above and beyond what is required of them -- and put themselves in harm's way in the process. They deserve our gratitude," said 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."
"Federal agents are extensively trained, at taxpayer expense, to protect and serve the American public and are never off-duty. To expect them to stand by while a victim suffers violent acts in their presence is contrary to the oath they take to protect others and is a waste of taxpayer funded training," Grassley said. "This bill will help make our communities safer and help those who are sworn to guard and serve the public."
"Day in and day out, federal law enforcement officers put themselves in harm's way to protect Americans," Coons said. "When I was a county executive in Delaware, I worked closely with our local law enforcement professionals and witnessed firsthand how our brave officers are trained to detect and prevent dangerous situations, whether they are on-the-clock or not. The Officer Safety Act of 2012 will ensure that "off duty' federal officers who intercede to protect the lives of others will be held to the same standards as when they are performing their official duties. This bill will help law enforcement better protect our neighbors and families. I applaud the leadership of Senator Grassley for developing this important legislation and I will continue to advocate on behalf of our brave first responders."
The Officer Safety Act of 2012 is modeled after the Good Samaritan Act, but is narrower, 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. In addition, it 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, as courts have invited Congress to clarify.