Sometimes, Congress gets it right, and when it passes legislation to help protect federal law enforcement officials and the public they serve, we say thank you. The Officer Safety Act of 2012 was recently passed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, thanks to bipartisan sponsors Reps. Dave Reichert and Bill Pascrell Jr. and Sens. Chuck Grassley and Chris Coons.
The new law, modeled after the Good Samaritan Act, now affords legal protection from local prosecution to federal agents who intervene while off-duty to protect citizens from loss of life or injury. The law “permit[s] Federal officers to remove cases involving crimes of violence to Federal court,” where they have more protections as federal agents, according to the bill.
Rep. Reichert issued a statement, saying:
The first priority of law enforcement officers is the safety of their community. With the signing of this bill, these brave men and women who sacrifice so much for their communities will receive the same protections both on and off duty.
Taxpayers train federal agents to protect and serve the American public. They are expected to be ‘on-call’ at all times. To think that they would have to stand by while a victim suffers violent acts in their presence to protect themselves from being sued is contrary to the oath they take and is a waste of taxpayer funded training.”
This is truly a remarkable victory for all federal law enforcement agents. Congratulations to the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association, the FBI’s Agent Association and the National Border Patrol Council for helping to get this new law on the books.
A statement on FLEOA’s website explained that the push for the new legislation came in the wake of a shooting by an off-duty U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who intervened in a dispute between his neighbors in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he was stationed.
In 2008, ATF Special Agent William G. Clark shot and killed Marcus Sukow while protecting Sukow’s battered girlfriend. The girlfriend had taken refuge in Clark’s vehicle after an attack by Sukow, who was wielding a heavy-duty, large, metal flashlight. Clark shot Sukow five times when Sukow raised the flashlight to strike the agent, CNN reported in 2010.
After an investigation by the Virgin Islands Police Department, prosecutors charged Clark with second-degree murder, arguing that five shots constituted excessive force because the intoxicated Sukow was armed “only with a flashlight,” according to the CNN report.
Fortunately, Clark was acquitted of all charges in September.
The enraged response from federal authorities and law enforcement officials for this injustice against Clark was swift.
“A federal government multiple-agency investigation of the incident unanimously concluded the shooting was justified,” CNN reported, adding that ATF officials “were so incensed by the Virgin Island’s prosecution of Clark — and so concerned other federal agents could similarly be prosecuted — that they removed all ATF agents from the Virgin Islands in 2008, a policy that continues today.”