Mr. President, I come to the floor today to salute and thank our nation’s law enforcement officers during this year’s “National Police Week.”
It’s notable that this week dedicated to the brave men and women in blue is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful to all working on the front lines right now, from doctors, and nurses to teachers and grocery store clerks. But this week, we have the unique opportunity to thank police officers. Now more than ever, we appreciate your service and dedication.
Being a police officer isn’t just a job. It’s a calling. Each officer has answered the call and is dutifully serving during these trying times. For that, I’m forever grateful.
I’m particularly thankful for the men and women in blue who serve my fellow Iowans. I’d also like to recognize the officers that serve in Washington, D.C. The Capitol Police work to ensure our safety and protection, not only from criminals but also from a virus that has drastically changed the way we work in the Senate to serve the American people. Thank you for your selflessness and dedication.
COVID-19 knows no bounds and has unfortunately affected hundreds of police officers. As of May 11, 101 officers have died in the line of duty due to COVID-19. We must continue to honor members of the law enforcement community who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The circumstances of loss are different now, but no less heroic or devastating.
As a Senator, my actions often speak louder than my words. So, I’m pleased to show the members of the law enforcement community how much I support and appreciate you through legislation. Every year during Police Week, the Senate advances bills focusing on the needs of the police community. This year is no different.
To that end, I recently introduced the bipartisan bill, Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. This bill addresses the unfortunate reality of officer exposure to COVID-19. To ensure benefits through the Public Safety Officer Benefits program, my bill creates a presumption that if a first responder is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 45 days of their last day on duty, the Justice Department will treat it as a line of duty incident.
Loss of a family member in the line of duty isn’t only emotionally devastating, but also means lost wages in tough times. This bill recognizes the challenges posed by the pandemic and better ensures that officers’ families will get the financial help as promised.
This bill enjoys wide support from multiple law enforcement groups, and a group of bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate.
The Senate is considering two other Police Week bills that I support.
Police officers have demanding jobs and experience events that often impact their mental health. The Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support Counseling Act, or “COPS Counseling Act,” builds off recommendations provided by the Justice Department in their recent report on law enforcement mental health and wellness issues. Specifically, the bill provides confidentiality to federal law enforcement officers by restricting individuals who participate in peer support counseling sessions from disclosing communications arising out of those sessions.
Peer support programs serve a valuable role of providing mental health to law enforcement and first responders, but confidentiality concerns have left them underutilized. This bill also encourages best practices for officers and first responders on peer support programs across the country. Thank you, Senator Cortez-Masto, for leading this bill and teaming up with me on this important issue.
Lastly, I’m proud to cosponsor Senator Hawley’s Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act. This bill seeks to address mental illness and increasing suicide numbers among law enforcement by requiring the FBI to open a voluntary data collection program to track suicides and attempted suicides within local, tribal, state, and federal law enforcement. By providing accurate and detailed information on suicides, more effective prevention programs can be implemented.
I urge my colleagues to support all three of these bills. Passing them into law is one way of saying thank you to the brave men and women who serve us so selflessly.
We owe them a debt of gratitude, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic