Protecting those who protect us
© Greg Nash

Every day, police officers risk their own wellbeing to ensure the safety of others. These selfless men and women are the most courageous of public servants. At a moment’s notice, they rush into danger to help those in need. They serve as our first line of defense against crime, keeping our neighborhoods safe, deterring violence, and protecting the weak and the vulnerable from harm. Their job is to enforce the law and confront evil head-on—and they do so with little fanfare or recognition. 

Law enforcement officers make tremendous sacrifices to protect us from harm; the least we can do in return is ensure that they have the resources they need do their job. 

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Calling attention to the needs of law enforcement is especially timely as America celebrates National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week recognizes and honors law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

Since the first recorded U.S. law enforcement death in 1791, more than 23,000 officers have given their lives in the line of duty, including 135 deaths in 2017 alone. In my home state of Utah, the honor roll of fallen officers has reached 127.

Law enforcement officers risk life and limb to keep us safe. These courageous men and women work tirelessly to protect the rights and freedoms granted to all American citizens by the Constitution. To them, and to their courageous spouses and supportive families, we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

This Police Week, we should show law enforcement our gratitude in both word and deed by giving our men and women in blue the tools they need to do their jobs. That’s why I have proposed three pieces of legislation to keep law enforcement officers safe in the line of duty.

A 2015 Department of Justice report noted the rise in ambush-style attacks against law enforcements officers. To deter this violence, I wrote the Protect and Serve Act, which increases penalties under federal law for such attacks. My bill, which I introduced just last week, would provide an additional tool to hold criminals accountable for these heinous, cowardly assaults.

I have also introduced legislation to protect federal probation officers. These men and women face the difficult task of supervising offenders that have been convicted of crimes and subsequently released on probation or supervised release. Often times, third parties attempt to interfere with probation officers in the line of duty, sometimes even inflicting physical harm. This is already a crime under federal law, but probation officers do not currently have authority to arrest third parties for such offenses, even where there is probable cause to do so. My bill, The Probation Officer Protection Act, would give officers that authority, allowing them to continue their important work without unlawful interference from hostile individuals.

In addition to protecting probation officers, I am also working to strengthen law enforcement in its fight against international crime organizations. Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose a serious threat to the safety and security of our country, and to the law enforcement officers that protect it. These criminal organizations have one common goal: to make money. Consider that transnational crime generates an estimated $870 billion per year through money laundering and drug, human, and arms trafficking.

To fight this global crime epidemic, my bill, the Criminal Organizations Narcotics, Finances, Resources, Operations, and Networks Targeting (CONFRONT) Act, would confront TCOs head-on and hit them where it hurts by requiring the president to develop a national strategy to combat the financial networks of TCOs. Through this legislation, we can provide law enforcement with an effective plan to disrupt and eliminate organized crime organizations.

Congress should provide every tool possible to help our police officers, and practical legislation is a good place to start. This Police Week, let’s show law enforcement our gratitude through both word and action.

Hatch is the senior senator from Utah and a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.