Continuing Leahy’s Current String Of Bipartisan Successes, Senate Passes Bill By Leahy And Cornyn To Help Local Law Enforcement and Medical Agencies Train And Better Prepare For Active Shooter Situations

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2016) -- The Senate Wednesday unanimously passed the POLICE Act, a bipartisan bill by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to allow law enforcement officers in Vermont and across the country to use federal grant funds to train and better prepare for active shooter situations.

The bill’s approval comes in the midst of National Police Week and just two days after President Obama signed Leahy’s legislation reauthorizing Leahy’s lifesaving and time-tested Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program.  Leahy years ago teamed up with former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to establish the original Bulletproof Vest program in the wake of the 1997 Drega shooting rampage on the Vermont-New Hampshire border.  Federal officers engaged in that shootout were protected by body armor, but many of the state officers were not.  Two state troopers were killed in the shootout.  Since then the program has helped equip local and state police and sheriff’s officers in Vermont with more than 4,400 bulletproof vests, and more than 1.2 million vests across the country. 

And in another bipartisan Leahy effort, the Senate this week is heading toward passage of another bill co-authored by Leahy to fund emergency efforts to counter the emerging Zika health threat.  The Appropriations Committee bill negotiated by Leahy and other senators is helping to break a stalemate that has been preventing action on the Zika threat.  

Leahy, who had joined Cornyn as the POLICE Act’s lead Democratic cosponsor, said:  “Active shooter incidents have become all too common, occurring in shopping malls, schools, and the workplace – anywhere people gather.  No state is immune, including Vermont.  All of our officers should receive training on how to handle such situations so they can respond quickly and effectively to protect the public.  The POLICE Act will help make such training available, and I urge the House to promptly pass this legislation so the President can sign it into law and put its provisions to work.”

“Law enforcement and first responders need to be prepared for whatever comes their way including responding to active shooter situations.  We’re now one step closer to making it easier for local officials to use existing grant funding to prepare for the worst, and take the necessary precautions to better protect our communities during an emergency,” said Cornyn, chief sponsor of the POLICE Act.

Background on the POLICE Act

The POLICE Act would revise the rules of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) to allow first responders to use grants received through the program for active shooter response training.  Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) introduced a version of the POLICE Act in the House of Representatives in February.  The bill is supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Department of Justice’s VALOR program.

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