Washington, DC – The head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association (FLEOA) said that the PEACE Act legislation proposed by Democrats in Congress would have hampered law enforcement’s response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
PEACE, in this case, stands for Police Exercising Absolute Care with Everyone.
FLEOA President Larry Cosme called the bill proposed by U.S. Representatives Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) and Ro Khanna (D-California) “politically motivated legislation” in a press release on Wednesday.
“It is past time to end a legal standard for use of force that permits Americans to be killed as a first resort – rather than only when absolutely necessary - and with little accountability,” Khanna said in a press statement announcing the proposed changes to federal law.
“This disproportionately impacts African Americans, who make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for 25 percent of those Americans tragically shot and killed by police each year,” he continued. “Immediately resorting to lethal force rather than using proven de-escalation tactics increases risks for both citizens and police officers. We have to do more than change the rhetoric: we have to change the laws.”
The PEACE Act’s authors have touted the bill as “groundbreaking use-of-force reform legislation” in press releases, but Cosme called the measure “ignorant of the reality” of what’s happening during incidents in which a use of force is necessary.
“The legislation introduced by Representatives Lacy Clay and Ro Khanna is an insult to law enforcement that will inhibit their ability to maintain the peace rather than protect it, as the name suggests,” Cosme said. “The PEACE Act itself, as well as the rhetoric surrounding its introduction, imply that federal law enforcement use deadly force as a first resort.”
“This is outrageous considering that in 2017 an estimated 1,247,321 violent crimes were reported, 987 of these cases involved lethal use of force by police. Of these, 95 percent of individuals were armed. Law enforcement officers use force when necessary to protect the public and themselves and discouraging them from doing so is dangerous,” he continued.
“Furthermore, the proposed legislation seems ignorant of the reality of the situation in which force is necessary,” Cosme explained. “Situations escalate in seconds and law enforcement are often called to the scene of already volatile situations. Under this legislation, law enforcement must take the time to conclude the age, language, physical and mental condition of an active threat before even issuing conditional warnings to the individual.”
Clay bragged in the press announcement that “our new legislation would prohibit the use of deadly force by federal law enforcement unless no other reasonable alternative exists.”
But Cosme said federal law enforcement already subscribes to the objective reasonableness standard held by the courts.
He pointed out that the PEACE Act ignores existing established legal precedents and policies.
”This legislation also neglects established precedent and policy on use of force which officers and agents dutifully follow in nearly every situation,” Cosme said. “Graham v. Connor, a unanimous Supreme Court decision, held that an objective reasonableness standard should be applied when determining the proper level of force. Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s official policy regarding use of force already requires agents only use deadly force when necessary to protect against the imminent threat of death of serious bodily injury.”
“All agencies have similar policies tailored to their mission,” he explained. “For example, the U.S. Marshals Service has three-pages of policy regarding use of force for escaped prisoners. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center also teaches de-escalation techniques at all basic classes with hours of training on the legal ramifications of use of force.”
“Protections for the public are already in place. In the moment of life or death, law enforcement does not need additional parameters for action, they need to trust their intuition and years of training,” he said.
Cosme said the proposed PEACE Act would not make Americans’ lives safer, and might actually do the opposite.
“In fact, if these conditions were used in the Dayton, Ohio or other mass shootings these incidents may have been exacerbated by a delayed law enforcement response due to parameters outlined in this politically motivated legislation,” he warned.