Back the Blue

Floor Speech

Date: May 15, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BACON. Madam Speaker, I thank Representative Rutherford for leading tonight's Special Order and being the expert on law enforcement issues. We came in together, and I look to the gentleman for doing the right thing to support our police. I appreciate Mr. Pascrell, too. We worked a lot on traumatic brain injury and law enforcement issues. We find areas to agree on. I know Mr. Gottheimer is getting up here soon, and he is also a partner in many of our policies that we need to work on together.

I rise today in honor of our police, the men and women who walk the streets of our communities to keep us safe. Those who leave their families do so every day to protect ours.

In particular, I recognize the 556 officers who never returned to their families last year, including Saunders County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Hermanson, who passed away. He was a K9 handler and a volunteer firefighter. Deputy Hermanson was best remembered as a respected officer dedicated to his job.

The best way we can honor those who give their lives, and their families, is to introduce legislation that better protects them on the job and prepares them for their profession and protects them in retirement.

This Congress I introduced H.R. 355, the Back the Blue Act of 2023, which makes it a Federal crime to kill, attempt to kill, or conspire to kill a Federal judge, a Federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. Criminals who cause harm or death to our officers should face punishment to the fullest extent of the law.

Mr. Rutherford talked earlier about all these ambushes. This is unacceptable. They must be held accountable. Our police are also facing radical attacks, and there are growing calls for them to be defunded.

Let us be absolutely clear: We stand with our police.

I am an original cosponsor of the Invest to Protect Act which would direct the Department of Justice to establish a grant program to aid police departments with fewer than 200 law enforcement officers. I am also a cosponsor of the EAGLE Act of 2023 to assist with the accreditation of small and midsize police departments.

Unfortunately, there is an effort to eliminate the protections of qualified immunity for police officers. Let's be clear. Qualified immunity is not a blank check allowing law enforcement officers to do what they want. It only protects them for personal liability if they have not violated clearly established policies.

Without it, law enforcement officers would face a deluge of civil suits for simply doing their jobs.

I am a cosponsor of the Qualified Immunity Act, which would codify qualified immunity protections for law enforcement.

We are seeing a rise of crime across the Nation. In contrast, I want to brag on our Omaha Police Department, which has worked with the community to lower crime rates.

Fifteen years ago, the Omaha Police Department partnered with Empowerment Network 360 to foster relationships with neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, and churches. Coupled with solid support from the Omaha city administration, they have the funding to do the work they have identified through these relationships as vital to lowering gun violence. They are now a model of success for reducing homicides and violent crime in the city.

Recently mentioned on ABC, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, we are one of the few large cities that have seen a drop in gun violence and crime. In 2022, there were 90 citywide shootings, down from 191 just 13 years ago. Even more impressive is that the homicide clearance rates are now at 87 percent in 2022. It shows our police are working hard and are professionals.

My family has been a victim of crime twice, both times when I was deployed in the Middle East during my time in the Air Force. I will take this time to thank the law enforcement officers who are there at people's worst times in their lives. In my case, I was gone both times when my family was a victim of crime. I was unable to help, but I knew the police were there to support my wife and our kids, and we are grateful. I know this is the story of Americans from coast to coast, Hawaii and Alaska.

These legislative actions, in addition to the work of our local law enforcement and community advocates, can lead to safer communities and help ensure that our law enforcement officers are able to return home to their loved ones.

Tonight, we say to our police, our law enforcement, that we thank them. We love them, and we are grateful for what they do day in and day out.