President Biden signed three law enforcement support bills into law on Nov. 18 that passed due to a bipartisan effort from legislators.
The Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021, the COPS Counseling Act, and the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act passed with near unanimous support, aiming to solve several problems facing the law enforcement community.
Biden acknowledged the challenges the law enforcement community faces and the support they desperately need, calling for greater resources.
“It’s going to require more resources, not fewer resources,” he said at the signing.
For a quick rundown on the bills, the Protecting America’s First Responders Act aims to provide improved access to benefits for officers injured in the line of duty.
Authored by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the law enables first responders disabled in the line of duty to have prompt access to benefits. Formerly, benefits from death or disability are provided in a lump sum adjusted yearly according to the consumer price index.
The new law will require the total benefit amount to be based on the consumer price index on the date of adjudication rather than the date of injury, as the adjudication process can sometimes take a long time.
The COPS (Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support) Counseling Act ensures confidentiality for federal law enforcement officers who make use of peer support services, with the exception of admissions of criminal conduct or serious threats of violence. The bill also will provide a list of best practices for peer support programs and training programs to become peer support mentors to encourage agencies to implement the programs.
The COPS Act passed the House on a 424-3 vote. Notably, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was one of the three to vote no.
Finally, the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act will make it so individuals who have killed or attempted to kill a federal officer or employee overseas can be prosecuted in the United States.
The bill was named after ICE Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, were attacked by Mexican drug cartels in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 2011. Zapata died from his injuries.
Despite the murderers being apprehended, a federal appeals court dismissed the murder convictions due to the district court not having jurisdiction over the crimes committed to law enforcement while overseas.
The legislation will clarify that federal officers and employees serving abroad are protected, and allows U.S. courts to prosecute their attackers.