Legislation providing additional protections to federal law enforcement officers who intervene in violent crime while off-duty passed the Senate today, but it must still be reconciled in the House.
The Officer Safety Act of 2012 was folded into the Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which the Senate approved by a vote of 98 to 0 today.
The legislation would allow federal law enforcement officers who are charged with a crime in state court to have their cases heard in federal court. It does not provide immunity to law enforcement officers.
“Federal agents are extensively trained, at taxpayer expense, to protect and serve the American public and are never off-duty,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement today. “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. This bill will help make our communities safer and help those who are sworn to guard and serve the public.”
The legislation was spurred by the case of ATF Special Agent William Clark, who was charged with second degree murder in 2008 by U.S. Virgin Island authorities he shot and killed a man. Clark said he was acting in self defense while attempting to help a woman involved in a domestic dispute. The local government and the ATF came to different conclusions. Ultimately the charges were dismissed at trial.
The Senate bill was introduced in March, cosponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association and the National Border Patrol Council have endorsed the legislation.