4. For what crimes do you believe that the death penalty is appropriate?
Obama: There are some crimes—such as the killing of law enforcement officers, mass murders, or the rape and murder of a child—that merit the ultimate punishment.
Romney: I support the federal death penalty and the right of individual states to determine whether and how to enforce capital punishment according to their own laws. In 2005 as Governor, I proposed legislation to re-establish the death penalty, which has not been utilized in Massachusetts since 1947. My proposal included establishing capital punishment for crimes involving terrorism, multiple murders, and the killing of law enforcement officers. I will continue to support capital punishment for these and other heinous crimes, along with safeguards to provide criminal defendants with appropriate due process so that when capital punishment is implemented, there is no question about the guilt of the offender.
5. When Congress enacted H.R. 3630, the “Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act,” the bill contained a provision allocating the D Block of spectrum to public safety in order to create a truly national public safety broadband network. The law calls for a new entity, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to be created. FirstNet will be located within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce and be provided with $7 billion to fund the build out of the national public safety broadband network. This is less than the original $12 billion proposed to fully fund the build out. What steps are you prepared to take to ensure that public safety is provided the resources to complete a national public safety broadband network?
Obama: First responders put their lives on the line to protect us every day. They need dedicated bandwidth to communicate with each other, especially in emergency situations when commercial wireless networks are congested.
Already, we have made progress. The Recovery Act provided resources to jurisdictions using wireless broadband for public safety. And I have directed federal agencies to enable large swaths of spectrum to be used more efficiently, a goal the National Telecommuncations and Information Administration is pursuing.
The Payroll Tax Reduction Extension sets aside a portion of the spectrum for a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. This law also invested into research into set aside critical funding for public safety network R&D—funds that will be vital to helping the public safety community build a robust, flexible and innovative network for first responders all around the country. I am committed to continue this progress in my second term.
Romney: Effective communication among law enforcement and first responders is critically important during any public safety incident. I will support reasonable and cost-effective proposals to ensure communications interoperability and the development of a national public safety broadband network. This should be achieved by hearing from all those affected and involved in the issue, not by any lone voices with a narrow agenda that ignores the broader public interest. Further, decisions about the allocation and use of spectrum must be made in a manner that takes into account public safety concerns as well as the economic and other benefits to all Americans provided by telecommunications services.
6. How will you and your Administration guarantee that the Fraternal Order of Police and the interests of its members are represented on the First Responder Network Authority, which will hold the Public Safety Broadband Licensee, and on the advisory councils of the Federal Communications Commission, which will oversee FirstNet?
Obama: The knowledge and expertise of public safety professionals is integral to the success of both FirstNet and the advisory council. At least three board members must have served as public safety professionals, and at least three members must represent the collective interests of states, localities, tribes, and territories. We welcome input from the FOP on qualified representation as the Secretary of Commerce appoints membership to the FirstNet Board that meets our statutory obligations as well as the interests of the community.
Romney: I commit to you that in a Romney administration, the Fraternal Order of Police will always have a prominent seat at the table to discuss this issue, and any other law enforcement issue of interest or concern to its members.
7. The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports the enactment of H.R. 35/S. 657, the “National Blue Alert Act,” which will create a national alert system allowing law enforcement to notify and seek the help of the general public if a law enforcement officer goes missing, is killed or is seriously injured in the line of duty. If passed by Congress, would you sign such a bill into law?
Obama: I commend the efforts of states who have already taken action to enact “Blue Alert” systems to ensure that critical information is quickly and appropriately disseminated to law enforcement agencies when a police officer is injured or killed. I support these state efforts and am willing to consider any legislation designed to achieve similar goals nationwide.
Romney: I believe the federal government, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other resources, should do all it can to assist state and local law enforcement in the location and apprehension of criminals who have assaulted or killed an officer. The Blue Alert concept is based upon the highly-effective Amber Alert system, which has rescued over 500 children and apprehended many offenders since the 2003 PROTECT Act reinforced the Amber Alert system at the federal level. Over the last two Congresses, the National Blue Alert Act has been mired in a legislative dispute relating to funding streams and funding levels. Although I understand and respect the different voices and views in this dispute, the reality is that the dispute has been allowed to persist without any resolution due to a lack of leadership from the executive branch. As president, I would ensure that my administration would engage to bring meaningful federal support to the Blue Alert system to help ensure the prompt identification and arrest of those who have harmed or killed law enforcement officers.