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Critics of “Back the Blue” worry police would not be accountable

A bill in Congress called “Back the Blue” is intended to protect police officers who put their lives on the line. But the proposed legislation would not only enhance penalties for killing or assaulting officers, but broaden immunity to cops who are sued for brutality or using deadly force.

Opponents are concerned that “Back the Blue” would turn a blind eye to police misconduct or give police carte blanche to shoot first and ask questions later. Do you think police need insulation from lawsuits? Would this law go too far?

Enhanced penalties for targeting law enforcement

The Back the Blue Act of 2017 was introduced May 16 by two Texas lawmakers (Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Ted Poe). One main thrust of the bill is to deter and punish those who target law enforcement officers. It would be a crime to kill, attempt to kill or conspire to kill law enforcement personnel, including police, emergency first responders and even former judges and police officers. Killing a law enforcement official would become a specific aggravating factor for the death penalty.

Assault on a police officer resulting in bodily injury would carry mandatory prison time. Any scuffle with police could be construed as a felony assault if the officer suffered minor injuries, leading to a minimum sentence of two years in prison. Criminal defense lawyers are all too familiar with bogus charges of assault on a police officer or resisting arrest as a cover-up for police misconduct. 

Less accountability for police and less recourse to sue

The other controversy over Back the Blue Act relates to alleged conduct by officers against citizens. The legislation would limit recovery of damages by individuals who were “more likely than not” engaged in felonies or violent crimes. In other words, if the cops caught someone in the act of burglary or believed the person had committed a felony they could not be sued for brutally, excessive force or unjustified use of deadly force.

The bill specifies that such citizens would be barred from recovering attorney fees. This would have the effect of making it less likely that a civil rights attorney would take the case. Citizens who already face an uphill battle would find it even harder to hold bad cops to justice.

This is not how you build community relations

Another provision of the bill would provide grants for “improving the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.” As written, this bill would take community relations backward. Taking away the right to sue and increasing the likelihood of trumped-up assault charges does not build trust and communication. 

Let your elected representatives know that you support police but do not support Back the Blue in its current form.

Source: House bill H.R. 2347 (Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas)

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