Legislation partially introduced by U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert to give federal law enforcement officers some legal protection for certain off-duty actions in a peacekeeping role has passed a hurdle to becoming law.
The Officer Safety Act, (House Resolution 4309), which Reichert authored with Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, was approved by the House of Representatives last month. It needs to pass in the Senate before it can take effect.
The bill, initially introduced last March, would allow off-duty federal officers who intervene to protect or assist a person in danger to be considered as acting under the “color of office.” Officers who might charged with a crime in state court under such circumstances could request to have their case heard in a federal court instead.
Reichert, a former King County sheriff, said that realistically, officers are never really off-duty when they see a situation in which someone’s life or safety is in danger. “We owe these brave men and women the assurance that they can continue to focus on serving at all times, knowing their rights are protected.” he said.
HR 4309 is modeled after the Good Samaritan Act, but is more restrictive and provides no liability protection. The bill doesn’t provide immunity to federal officers, but does allow flexibility in whether their cases can be tried in a federal or state court.