Keep Police Officers Safe: Stop the Back the Blue Act
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Police officers have a difficult and dangerous job. During my 34-year police career with the Baltimore Police and Maryland State Police Departments, I lost my close friend, Corporal Ed Toatley, and numerous other friends who wore the blue. I know the pain of losing a close comrade to street violence as well as anyone and I remain committed to improving safety for my fellow police officers.
That’s why I’m opposing a well-intentioned but divisive bill called “Back the Blue Act,” which I believe will have the opposite result of keeping officers on the street safe.
The Back the Blue Act makes any assault on an officer a federal crime with a mandatory minimum sentence. But here’s the thing: assaulting a police officer is already a crime in every state and already carries strict penalties set by local legislatures. This bill won’t deter individuals from assaulting police just by making a federal case out of these crimes. Instead, the bill would make us less safe by pushing an “us vs. them” mentality and worsening police-community relations.
What kept me safe was not any particular law but rather the trust, respect, and relationships that my fellow officers and I were able to build in the community. Mandatory sentences won’t deter the acts of violence that I had to be on guard for as a police officer.
Back the Blue also takes away local authority by requiring the use of new sentences created by politicians in Washington and diverts federal resources from stopping the most complex and serious crimes like international child trafficking, money laundering rings, and other cases that are too complex, challenging, far-reaching, or sensitive for state and local prosecutors. While assault on an officer is a serious crime, it is a crime that can be easily handled by state and local prosecutors working with existing state laws.
Add your name to my petition to let your members of Congress know that that while Back the Blue might sound like a good bill, it’s going to have unintended consequences that make the police officers less safe and take away resources from federal prosecutors.
Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership
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