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Pascrell, Rutherford Introduce Bills to Protect Law Enforcement, Mint Commemorative Coin

Dual legislation would empower probation officers facing violent situations and create new honor for National Law Enforcement Museum

Washington, March 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and John Rutherford (R-FL-04), the co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, introduced two pieces of legislation to support law enforcement initiatives. The Probation Officer Protection Act, H.R. 1866, would give federal probation officers the power to arrest third party individuals that obstruct a parole officer from carrying out their job. And the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act, H.R. 1865, would authorize the minting of a coin in honor of the Museum.

“Every day, a hole in our laws threatens the safety and well-being of countless parole officers and law enforcement personnel,” said Rep. Pascrell about the Probation Officer Protection Act, a version of which passed the House last Congress. “Under the existing laws, a federal parole officer is not allowed to arrest third parties that seek to obstruct, impede, or pose direct harm to the parole officers while carrying out their jobs. This legislation will close this loophole by giving parole officers the tools to fulfill their jobs, while protecting the health and safety of officers, offenders, and other police.

 “Probation officers play a vital role in our criminal justice system and should be given the tools they need to carry out their jobs safely,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Currently, parole officers are forced to call additional authorities when encountered with an individual not directly under their supervision but illegally hindering or seeking to harm that officer. By allowing these parole officers to conduct arrests, we can ensure their safety and reduce the strain on other law enforcement resources.”

In a 2017 letter, the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States endorsed this legislation. “That probation officers do not have the authority to arrest, or even to give orders or instructions to, anyone other than the offender is not conducive to effective supervision or officer safety, and undermines the ability of probation officers to help rehabilitate offenders while protecting the public,” wrote the letter. “To fix this, we support passage of the Probation Officers Protection Act, which would give probation officers the authority to temporarily direct, and if necessary to arrest, a person who is obstructing an officer while performing their official duties. We greatly appreciate Congressman Pascrell’s leadership of this modest but much-needed reform.”

Under current federal law, federal probation officers lack the authority to issue third party arrests. Where a federal parole officer is obstructed or physically harmed by a third party while carrying out his or her duties, the officer is not allowed to arrest that third party. Instead, federal probation officers must request help from the police and wait for assistance. This hole in the law needlessly places federal probation officers, offenders, and responding law enforcement at risk of harm. Rep. Pascrell and Rep. Rutherford’s legislation would give federal parole officers the authority to arrest third parties that impede or pose a threat of violence to their work.

This is a considerable safety threat to federal probation officers. In Fiscal Year 2018, federal probation officers conducted a total of 1,426 searches pursuant to a court-ordered search condition or with consent, of which 682 had at least one third party (i.e., someone other than the probationer or offender) present. Despite relying on other law enforcement agencies for support and assistance during 645 of these searches, federal probation officers faced 530 safety-related incidents, of which approximately 32 percent involved third parties, including 35 uncooperative occasions. Third party obstruction can include: physical assault; verbal threats of violence; verbal and nonverbal intimidation; and physically obstructing entry into or exit from a residence.

The Probation Officer Protection Act is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Some proceeds from the coin authorized in the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act would be dedicated to support the activities of the new museum. Funding for the National Law Enforcement Museum was authorized by Congress in 2000, with ground broken in 2010. The museum was officially opened to the public on October 13, 2018.

About H.R. 1865, Rep. Pascrell stated, “The National Law Enforcement Museum is a monument to the dedication and sacrifice of America’s Finest. The memorial to the fallen is one of the most touching shrines in our nation’s capital. It is fully fitting, then, that the museum enjoy the recognition of a minted coin in honor of our law enforcement officers.”

 “The National Law Enforcement Museum is an important tribute to the guardians of America’s communities,” said Rep. Rutherford. “As a former sheriff, I have seen personal sacrifices and brave actions by many of the officers under my command. It is right to commemorate these actions and those like it through the recognition of a minted coin by the United States of America.”

“October 13, 2018 marked the grand opening of the National Law Enforcement Museum and one of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s proudest moments,” said Lori Day, Interim CEO of the National Law Enforcement Museum. “Support for one tiny coin can have a tremendous impact on the future of the National Law Enforcement Museum and the mission of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.”  

Rep. Pascrell and Rep. Rutherford’s National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act is cosponsored by 114 members of the House. 

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