Durbin Introduces Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act
This legislation, named after a Chicago police officer who was murdered last year with a straw purchased gun, will authorize the use of federal funding for multi-jurisdictional task forces that investigate and disrupt illicit straw purchasing and firearms trafficking activity
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced the Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act of 2022, legislation that would authorize the use of Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhood funds to support multi-jurisdictional task forces that investigate and disrupt illicit straw purchasing and firearms trafficking activity. The bill is named after Chicago Police Officer Ella Grace French, who was tragically shot and killed on August 7, 2021, while conducting a routine traffic stop. An investigation revealed that the firearm used to kill Officer French and to seriously injure her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., was straw purchased by an Indiana man on behalf of the shooter, who had a felony record and could not lawfully purchase a firearm himself. Durbin announced the introduction of this new legislation during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Law Enforcement Officer Safety: Protecting Those Who Protect and Serve.”
“Last year, we lost a wonderful young Chicago police officer—Ella French—who was only 29 years old when she was murdered with a straw purchased gun. Her devastating loss prompted an outpouring of grief—but it also represented a call to action,” said Durbin. “By helping support coordinated efforts to investigate and disrupt illicit straw purchasing and gun trafficking networks, the Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act will help keep firearms out of the hands of prohibited users and help keep our communities and law enforcement officers safe.”
“Officer Ella French dedicated her life to making Chicago's communities safer and died while protecting the people of our city,” said Chicago Police Department Superintendent David O. Brown. “This act is a testament to Officer French and her legacy that continues to inspire all of us.”
Along with Durbin, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
“The horrific murder of Chicago Police Officer Ella French due to a straw purchased firearm was a tragedy that should never have happened,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senator Durbin to introduce this legislation that would provide resources to investigate and prevent illicit straw purchases and illegal firearms trafficking to keep our communities—and those who serve them—safer.”
As demonstrated by the gun used to kill Officer French, firearms trafficking and straw purchasing frequently take place across state and jurisdictional boundaries. The new legislation will fund cross- and multi-jurisdictional task forces that coordinate efforts between Federal, State, Tribal, territorial, and local agencies to investigate and disrupt this criminal activity. Such task forces can include, but are not limited to, the regional strike forces established by the Department of Justice in July, 2021, as part of the Department’s Comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy.
In the year since their establishment, these strike forces have conducted high impact investigations that identified and prosecuted individuals who illegally trafficked firearms from source cities into major urban areas, where they were often discovered at crime scenes or in the possession of violent actors. Such investigations have led to the disruption of trafficking corridors. Access to Project Safe Neighborhoods funding would bolster these efforts and allow the establishment of additional task forces in other regions.
Launched in 2001, Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, community leaders, and other stakeholders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. Its core principles are community engagement, prevention and intervention, focused and strategic enforcement, and accountability. The current authorizing statute for Project Safe Neighborhoods authorizes funding for seven purpose areas; this bill would add an additional purpose area allowing funds to also be used for “support for multijurisdictional task forces that coordinate efforts between Federal, State, Tribal, territorial, and local agencies to investigate and disrupt illegal firearms trafficking and straw purchasing.”
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