Barletta Votes for Thin Blue Line Act
Barletta meeting with members of the Lower Paxton Township Police Department on May 10, 2017.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today voted for pro-law enforcement legislation that toughens punishments for cop killers. The Thin Blue Line Act, H.R. 115, amends the federal criminal code to include the killing or attempted killing of a local or state law enforcement officer, firefighter, or first responder as an aggravating factor in federal death penalty determinations. The House passed the bill by a vote of 271-143. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
“We need to do everything we can to protect the men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day to keep us safe,” Barletta said. “This bill sends a strong message that criminals who target police and first responders will be held accountable.”
According to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the number of police officer deaths from shootings increased 56 percent nationally in 2016.
Additionally, according to the National Association of Police Organizations, ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers increased by 167 percent last year.
The Thin Blue Line Act applies when a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other first responder is murdered on duty, because of the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official.
The House vote coincided with National Police Week, which began Monday and honors law enforcement killed in the line of duty.
Last Congress, Barletta co-sponsored and helped lead the passage of a bill improving protections for correctional officers. The Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, signed into law in March 2016, supplies pepper spray to federal prison officers or employees who may respond to emergency situations with inmates. The legislation was named for Nanticoke native Eric Williams, an officer at the U.S. Prison at Canaan who was attacked and murdered by an inmate in 2013.
Earlier this year, when Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf considered closing two prisons from a list of five, Barletta fought to prevent the closure of the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Retreat (SCI Retreat), which employs approximately 400 residents of Luzerne County and the surrounding area. Barletta met with Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and sent a letter to Wolf urging the administration to consider the economic toll the prison closure would take on the area due to job losses, as well as the impact on public safety and the welfare of correctional officers. Barletta also worked with Voices of J.O.E., a group that advocates for correctional officers and their families, and its founder Don Williams, the father of Eric Williams. The governor decided to keep SCI Retreat open, while closing only SCI-Pittsburgh.
The following first responder organizations have voice support for the Thin Blue Line Act:
· National Association of Police Organizations
· National Fraternal Order of Police
· Major Counties Sheriffs of America
· American Federation of Government Employees
· Sergeants Benevolent Association
· Council of Prison Locals
· Peace Officers Research Association of California
· Voices of J.O.E.
· U.S. First Responders Association
· AFGE Council of Prison Locals, AFL-CIO
· Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
· International Association of Chiefs of Police
· International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO
· National District Attorneys Association
· National Volunteer Fire Council
· National Sheriffs’ Association
· National Troopers Coalition