A federal bill introduced in Congress earlier this year would give special agents greater protection when intervening to stop a violent act, even if it’s outside the scope of their duties under S. 2276 and H.R. 4309, the Officer Safety Act of 2012. This bicameral and bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and co-sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and in the House by Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ). According to the Jon Adler national president of FLEOA (Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association), “If an act of violence happens on the street, [federal agents] aren’t permitted to intervene because they’re going to be judged by the scope of their employment. If an agent intervenes to stop someone, they’re on their own.”
On the surface, having the backing of federal agents would be a good idea for the local law enforcement, but then the question would arise, what would their roles be? Currently, according to the FBIAA, agents are not allowed to intervene. According to the website Policemag, “The Officer Safety Act is a priority for our organization and recognizes the need to protect the brave men and women in federal law enforcement who intervene, in good faith, to defend our citizenry from acts of violence,” Adler said in a release: “The ‘Officer Safety Act’ is a priority for our organization and recognizes the need to protect the brave men and women in federal law enforcement who intervene, in good faith, to defend our citizenry from acts of violence…”
Yet some federal agents are leery. A federal police officer said prior to the Patriot Act, “We were the creation of the Nixon Administration. We were created because of riots and violence.” The Protective Service was created by President Richard Nixon in 1971 after a wave of riots and bombings and the slaying of a federal judge. Again the federal officer said that the creation was illegal and possibly unconstitutional. That’s why the officer said that they only patrol federal facilities or to facilities that are contracted out to to the federal government.
Then came S. 1132: The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act of 2010 modified HR 218. This allowed officers and deputies and retirees to carry concealed in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Prior to this, each state under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution had the right to ban anyone other than active law enforcement of the state to carry concealed. New Jersey was one state. Now with the passage of Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act of 2010 modified HR 218, any and all law enforcement can carry. In the same spirit, S. 2276 and H.R. 4309 was drafted. But unlike Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act, the federal agents are not law enforcement, and under posse comitatus, their jurisdiction is within a federal facility, park and/or building contract to the federal government. If assistance is needed outside of the facility, like on a city street, the agent then must contact the local law enforcement.
Still there is concern about the role of the FBI, for example, pertaining to this law. Many Occupy Wall Street members were shocked that the bills were introduced. Shocked because, do the “feds have the power to monitor or G.A. (General Assembly) and put our faces in a database to monitor our whereabouts? Would they use it to stifle our rights to speak up against the 1% and possibly throw us in prison?” Yet answers stemming from concerns about S. 2276 and H.R. 4309 are minimal.
According to Adler, it is for the protection of the agents to intervene if a crime is committed, yet there are procedures and laws already that protect agents in case their assistance is needed. It is called 911 or citizens arrest. Or if they are in a Stand Your Ground state, the agents are protected from prosecution as seen in the Trayvon Martin Case. Yet another issue that comes to mind is, who has jurisdiction? According to PoliceMag, “A federal agent on trial in the Virgin Islands for murder has been cleared of wrongdoing, after the presiding judge dismissed the case Thursday.” and “Federal agents are more likely to receive a fair and impartial trial in federal rather than local court,” said FBIAA (FBI Agents Association) President Konrad Motyka. If a homicide is a state crime when a crime is committed off federal property or federal jurisdiction. Who then would hear the case, the state or the federal court?
According to Motyka, it seems apparent that if a crime committed in the state and an agent is involved, they must be protected. Yet one wonders what will happen to all the state codes protecting and serving the people? And if there is some questions into a shooting by a federal agent, will the agent end up in state court and if need be, state prison or will it go to a federal judge who, according to Motkya, is more impartial? As of right now, there is minimal amount of information coming from D.C. and jurisdiction will also be an issue.
Is there a separate level of justice between law enforcement and federal agents? That is the question many in local and state law enforcement are wondering, as well as members of Occupy Wall Street.