New legislation to support law enforcement
Recent years have seen increasing antipathy toward the law enforcement community, exacerbated by the use of social media.
While there has been justifiable cause for some protests, the departments — on the whole — have been unfairly maligned and targeted. The unacceptable actions of some officers have left the entire police force vulnerable to social, political and violently physical attacks.
To aid and protect the men in blue, Congress passed several important pieces of legislation in the last year. The various new laws supporting law enforcement include bills to expand active shooter training, a much-needed program in this era of shooting related police deaths. There are also bills to help reduce the nationwide rape kit backlog and increase resources for mentally ill offenders.
POLICE Act of 2016: Expands access to receive more federal funding for active shooter response training, for law enforcement as well as first responders.
Mental Health and Safe Communities Act: Expands pretrial screening and assessment programs for mentally ill offenders to better identify, treat and supervise them. It also seeks to expand federal funding for the use of Crisis Intervention Teams, who help prevent acts of violence and mental health crises.
Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016: Provides law enforcement with more resources to arrest violent offenders, strengthens the crime victims' rights in the courtroom, improves resources for forensic labs and access to post-conviction DNA testing among others. It also seeks to reauthorize the grant funding for both local and state law enforcement agencies to reduce the nationwide rape kit backlog.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — President-elect Donald Trump's nomination for U.S. attorney general — has further stressed the need to aid police departments in their work. His confirmation hearing focused on respect for the rule of law and increased support for law enforcement.
Pointing to the rise in the number of police officers killed in the line of duty, Sessions said the DOJ would actively try to reduce police deaths in future. He also stressed punishing those responsible for white-collar crimes and stricter enforcement of immigration laws. Multiple law enforcement departments have heartily supported his speech.
These are troubled times and as much as we need to help our officers, we also need to prevent the misuse of information by corrupt officials. Amidst fears of privacy and surveillance issues during the new administration, several legislators are pushing for the bills that will prevent officers from tracking and recording cellphone conversations, reading emails and handling immigration-related cases.
Therefore, laws regarding community policing need to be carefully enforced. The trust between multiple agencies, law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is fragile and slowly being rebuilt. Officers need to contain crime rates and maintain the respect for law at the same time.