Contact: Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353
March 9, 2021 

Cotton, Herrell Bill Allows Death Penalty for Cop-Killers

Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Representative Yvette Herrell (R-New Mexico) introduced the Defending Our Defenders Act. The legislation would make the murder of a state or local law enforcement officer a federal crime punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

“Law enforcement officers dedicate their lives to defending the rule of law and protecting their fellow citizens. An attack on an officer is an attack on our democracy, and those criminals must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Our bill will subject those who murder police to a punishment they deserve, life in prison or the death penalty,” said Cotton.

“The murder of any law enforcement officer undermines the fabric of our society. An attack on those who ‘protect and serve’ us is an attack on our communities and the rule of law. It cannot stand — we must defend those who defend us so selflessly and bravely. They have our backs, we must have theirs,” said Herrell. “New Mexicans were shocked and saddened to learn of the murder of State Patrolman Darian Jarrott during a shoot-out with a drug runner earlier this month. Just five years ago, two other New Mexico police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. The criminals who took these lives deserve to face the maximum penalties allowed by law.”

Under the Defending Our Defenders Act, a cop-killer could receive a life sentence, or the death penalty, if certain aggravating factors are met, including: intent to ambush a police officer, prior statements advocating or promoting violence against law enforcement, participation or affiliation with anarchist or other violence promoting groups, prior threats against law enforcement, or if the murder occurred during organized anti-law enforcement activity.

The Defending Our Defenders Act is supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Chiefs of Police, Heritage Action for America and the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association. The bill was also endorsed by Chief John Ortolano, Hobbs Police Department, Chief David Rodriguez, Lovington Police Department, as well as the Sheriffs’ Departments of Grant, Chavez, Catron, DeBaca, Guadalupe, Lea, Lincoln, Otero, Luna, Curry, Hidalgo, Valencia, Cibola, McKinley, Socorro, Sierra, and Quay Counties. 

Additional background:

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund (NLEMF), the U.S. has over 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers. In 2018, 56 died in the line of duty because of felonious acts. In 2019, that number was 48, and in 2020 it was 59. Since 1786, when the first police death was recorded in the U.S., more 22,000 officers killed have been killed in the line of duty. In the State of New Mexico, 160 police officers have died in the line of duty — 91 from gunfire, four from assault, five from stabbing, and four from vehicular assault.