The House and the Senate have both drafted versions of a new bill called The Protect and Serve Act, which would imprison citizens for up to 10 years for injuring, or attempting to injure, a police officer. This bill is a stark contrast to the recent nationwide outcry for officer accountability legislation due to the prevalence of white police brutality against citizens, normally minorities.
The Protect and Serve Act is currently in two different drafts, one by the House and one by the Senate. According to The Root, the House version of the bill makes it illegal to knowingly attempt or cause “serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer.” The punishment for this crime is 10 years in prison. However, if the crime involves planning or carrying out the murder or kidnapping of a police officer, the sentence can be as long as life in prison. The Senate’s version of the bill is harsher in its use of language and seems to borrow words from hate crime laws, such as “heinous cowardly assaults.” Under the Senate’s bill, an attempt to injure or kill a police officer would be considered a federal hate crime. Both drafts of the bill are still pending.
According to FBI statistics, the number of cops killed or assaulted in the past decade has not increased, but has remained fairly consistent. In 2017, 46 police officers were feloniously killed while 987 citizens were shot and killed by police, per WaPo. A lot of these brutal shootings have been recorded on police car dashboard cameras, such as the murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. in 2015. The footage of these murders has led to protests across America, efforts from organizations such as Black Lives Matter and a nation that fears the very people who are put in place to protect its citizens. Also according to The Root, in 2017, cops killed more Americans than terrorists, airplanes, mass shooters and Chicago’s “top gang thugs” did. Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as “crimes in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin.” A hate crime is committed against a vulnerable American citizen of color, not a police officer with a gun.
As pointed out in a WaPo op-ed, the bill could cause real harm to citizens. The post argues that “an assault on a police officer charge is often used a cudgel—it’s a way of dissuading legitimate victims of police brutality from filing complaints. If such an assault charge could soon come with an additional federal charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison, that cudgel grows by about 10 sizes.” The fight against police brutality will become more difficult if this bill passes and may deter citizens from reporting it at all.
The Protect and Serve bill is scheduled to be reviewed by the House this week.