GOP senators: Police lives also matter
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Two Republican senators are pushing for stiffer punishments for those who attack firefighters, police officers and criminal prosecutors.

The two senators, Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion MORE (Ala.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (Pa.), say the tougher punishments are necessary because of an increase in violence against police.


“It is important that we send the message that police lives also matter, and that if you target a police officer with violence, you will receive a harsh penalty,” Toomey said in a statement.

“The alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped,” Sessions said in the same statement.

The legislation also appears to be a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which started because of complaints by people of color of violence perpetrated by police officers. Activists with the movement have interrupted several events by presidential candidates as part of an effort to get those running for president to pay more attention to the issue.

According to a report by The Associated Press, 26 police officers were killed between January and September this year, compared to 30 in that time period last year.

Separately, a report in The Guardian found that 547 people had been killed by police through June of this year.

While the federal government does not keep records on the number of people killed by police, the FBI does run a voluntary program in which local police report justifiable killings. That report counted 461 justifiable killings in all of 2013, according to the report in The Guardian.

The Thin Blue Line Act introduced by Sessions and Toomey imposes some of the same protections afforded to federal law enforcement officials to those at the local level.

They said on Tuesday that it renders attacks on such personnel an “aggravating” or “mitigating” factor that juries must consider for assigning the death penalty.

It also imposes more grievous punishments for attacks motivated by a law enforcement official’s service, they added.

“Every day, our law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us,” Sessions said.

“Congress has long recognized that additional tools are needed to prevent such attacks on law enforcement officers,” he continued.

“Those who would murder a person simply because he or she wears blue deserve a harsh penalty,” Sessions added. “This legislation seeks to achieve those ends.”

Sessions and Toomey said they were joining Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) following his introduction of equivalent legislation in the House last February.

"This legislation will hopefully serve as an even greater deterrent and help protect the men and women who risk their lives for the safety and well-being of others," Jolly said in a statement on Feb. 9.

"Current federal law only cites the homicide of a federal public servant," he added. "This bill would close that loophole and treat all police equally under federal law."

Multiple organizations have endorsed the details in Session and Toomey's legislation, according to the pair's statement.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) and the National Troopers Coalition are some of the supportive groups backing their efforts.

FLEOA legislative director Don Mihalek said on Tuesday that the proposed measure would protect law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.

"An attack on law enforcement is an attack on the American fabric," he told The Hill during a phone call.

"I would say that targeted attacks on law enforcement have grown," Mihalek said. "I have never seen so many news stories talking about law enforcement being targeted.”

"I would hope [this proposed legislation] sends a message to the officers that Congress and our federal government supports what they do,” he added.

—Updated at 3:44 p.m.