Durbin, Grassley Law Enforcement Bills Signed Into Law
Legislation will help support law enforcement officers by providing resources they need to do their jobs safely and build trust within the communities they serve
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statements following yesterday’s White House signing ceremony for three bills to support law enforcement: S.921, Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act; S.1511, Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021; and S.1502, Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act. This bipartisan legislation was unanimously advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Durbin and Grassley on May 13, 2021 in recognition of Police Week.
“With our country in the midst of sometimes fraught discussions about how to best ensure accountability throughout law enforcement and make our communities safer, it is important that we continue offering support for those law enforcement officers who are serving us with dignity and integrity,” Durbin said. “I was proud to lead these bill through the Judiciary Committee with my friend and Ranking Member, Senator Grassley, and thank President Biden for his quick work signing these into law.”
“Supporting law enforcement is just common sense. And it’s especially important after departments faced difficulties maintaining morale and workforce, as well as an increase in crime,” Grassley said. “These bills will help ensure that public safety officers receive the support and resources they need from the federal government as they continue to keep our communities safe.”
The first bill, Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act, is named for Department of Homeland Security Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, who were attacked by drug cartels in Mexico in February 2011. Special Agent Zapata died from his injuries. This bill would clarify Congress’ intent that federal officers and employees serving outside U.S. borders are protected by our federal criminal laws, and ensure justice is served for federal officers who are defending our country, wherever in the world they are.
The second bill, Protecting America’s First Responders Act, would improve death and disability benefits for first responders by ensuring severely disabled first responders are able to receive benefits from the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit fund as intended by Congress.
The third bill, Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act, would ensure privacy protections for officers seeking assistance from peer counseling programs. These programs provide important mental health services to law enforcement and first responders, but may be underutilized due to confidentiality concerns. This bill protects confidentiality by prohibiting individuals who participate in peer counseling sessions from disclosing communications made during the sessions, with a few limited exceptions. This will help officers take care of their own mental health, so they can safely serve us all.
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