Section Two: Criminal Justice Issues
1. The FOP supports legislation that would increase the penalties for threats and violence against law enforcement officers, judges, and courtroom personnel–including making the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer employed by an agency that receives Federal funds a capital offense. The legislation also imposes time and other substantive limits on Federal courts’ review of habeas corpus petitions challenging a State court conviction for killing a law enforcement officer, judge, or other public safety officer and incorporates an existing provision of the Federal habeas statute that is used to determine whether a defendant may file a successive petition or seek a new evidentiary hearing in Federal court. If elected, will your Administration actively support such legislation and will you sign the bill if it is passed by Congress?
Obama: It is a priority of my administration to ensure that our law enforcement officers, judges, and other courtroom personnel are protected and secure, consistent with Constitutional limits on federal authority.
Romney: I have deep and abiding respect and gratitude for our nation’s law enforcement officers. That respect will inform the priorities I set and the decisions I make as president. In recent years, there has been an alarming surge in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The New York Times recently reported that the number of officers killed by perpetrators last year was 25 percent higher than in 2010 and a full 75 percent higher than in 2008. While any death of an officer in the line of duty is a tragedy, this trend is unacceptable and must be reversed. Accordingly, I firmly support measures that would meaningfully deter and punish threats and violence against law enforcement officers, judges, and courthouse staff, as well as criminal conduct targeted at their families. In my view, such conduct can effectively be deterred only through predictable penalties that are administered without delay or endless litigation. As the law enforcement community well knows, litigation by those who have murdered police officers can last decades and take a toll on the emotional and even financial resources of surviving family members, who are acutely reminded of their painful loss each time a successive court challenge is filed. As president, I would support and sign legislation that would help bring closure to family members who, having already lost a father, mother, son, or daughter to tragedy, have also endured the ordeal and uncertainty of a trial, appeal and habeas corpus challenge.
2. The FOP believes that all civilian Federal law enforcement officers should have statutory arrest authority. There are thousands of civilian law enforcement officers employed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) whose authority is limited to that of “apprehension.” Because it is not clear if the difference between arrest and apprehension is one of use or one of law, the FOP supports legislation like H.R. 324 which would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Defense to grant statutory arrest authority to civilian law enforcement officers within DoD. Would you sign such a bill into law and would you urge your Defense Secretary to use this authority?
Obama: I am committed to ensuring that civilian law enforcement officers have the tools they need to carry out their responsibilities effectively. I look forward to further discussions with the FOP on how to accomplish this goal.
Romney: I believe that effective law enforcement must always involve clear jurisdictional lines and robust communication between and among federal, state and local law enforcement officers. There are times when exigent circumstances may warrant a limited expansion of jurisdictional authority for certain civilian law enforcement officers, including those at DoD. I am willing to study this proposal in greater detail and discuss it with DoD, the Fraternal Order of Police and any other interested groups to determine whether and how such an expansion or clarification of authority might be appropriate.
3. The Fraternal Order of Police supports legislation that would limit the amount of damages a criminal defendant could recover as a result of injuries that the criminal incurred in the course of committing or being apprehended for a felony or a crime of violence. Would your Administration support such legislation if it were introduced? Will you pledge to sign such a bill if it is passed by Congress?
Obama: In general, I am opposed to establishing arbitrary caps on civil damages.
Romney: I support common-sense tort reform measures to eliminate the burden of frivolous litigation and errant judgments, which are matters that are largely the responsibility of state courts and legislatures under our federal system. Nonetheless, there is a distinct role for federal tort law reform with regard to frivolous and costly litigation against law enforcement, which typically occurs in the federal courts under federal statutory claims. One such reform was proposed in the “Daniel Faulkner Law Enforcement Officers and Judges Protection Act,” during the 110th Congress. That reform proposal, if enacted, would curtail a perpetrator’s ability to sue for damages sustained as a result or in the course of conduct by the perpetrator that, “more likely than not, constituted a felony or a crime of violence[.]” As president, I would support measures like the one proposed in the Faulkner Act to curb lawsuits by perpetrators who sue seeking to profit from alleged injuries caused by their own criminal misconduct.