By Congressman Bradley Byrne
Last week, we celebrated National Police Week with events in the nation’s capital and in communities right here in Southwest Alabama. These ceremonies served as an opportunity to say “thank you” to those who help keep us safe.
During one ceremony in front of the United States Capitol, President Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that “patriotic Americans of all backgrounds truly support and love our police.”
The ceremonies and Police Week also presented a solemn opportunity to honor those who have lost their lives while serving in the line of duty. At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, this quote from former President George H. W. Bush puts the sacrifice best: “Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency, and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream.”
In 2016, 145 officers were killed in the line of duty, including Correctional Officer Kenneth Bettis who was attacked by an inmate at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. Already in 2017, 50 more officers have lost their life in the line of duty. These numbers are heartbreaking.
In addition to honoring our law enforcement officers, we also took time to reflect on the sacrifice of the families of police officers and first responders. These families must overcome long hours, late nights, and constant fear as their loved one works to protect us.
In Congress, we used Police Week as an opportunity to pass a number of bills important to our nation’s law enforcement officers. I want to highlight a few of them.
First, we passed the Thin Blue Line Act. This bill would amend the federal criminal code to include the killing or attempted killing of a law enforcement officer or first responder as an aggravating factor in federal death penalty decisions. Those who target and kill our law enforcement officers should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
We also passed the Probation Officer Protection Act, another pro-police bill that would authorize probation officers to arrest hostile third parties who harm them or obstruct them from doing their job. This commonsense bill will help keep probation officers safe and free up time for our law enforcement officers to focus on other priorities.
Third, we passed the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act by a vote of 411 to 1. This bill simply permits the American flag to be flown at half-staff when a local police officer, firefighter, or first responder is killed in the line of duty. This will be just a small token of appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation.
Of particular importance to Alabama, the House passed the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act. The bill formally authorizes the National Computer Forensics Institute, which is located in Hoover, Alabama. This program helps train state and local law enforcement regarding cyber and electronic crimes.
Finally, we passed the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act. Many of our nation’s veterans go on to serve as police officers, and this bill would prioritize the hiring of veterans under the federal COPS Hiring program.
These are just five examples of our efforts in Congress to crack down on crime and support our nation’s police officers.
Never forget that we get to lay our heads down on our pillow at night feeling safe because there are men and women out there patrolling the streets. So, the next time you lay down for bed, be sure to say a special prayer for all our law enforcement officers and first responders.