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The Honorable Dick Durbin                             
Senate Judiciary Committee                              
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building                  
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Lindsey Graham
Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

 Oppose the Protect and Serve Act of 2023               

Dear Chair Durbin and Ranking Member Graham:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF), and the undersigned organizations, we write to urge you to oppose introduction, co-sponsorship, or a vote on the Protect and Serve Act of 2023. The Protect and Serve Act would create a new federal criminal offense applicable to anyone who “knowingly assaults a law enforcement officer causing bodily injury, or attempts to do so.”[1] This bill contains several provisions comparable to federal hate crimes statutes,[2] though with a lower mens rea standard that renders it easier to criminalize acts or even attempted acts committed against an officer than violence motivated by racial, religious, gender, or other animus.[3] Even if the mens rea standard were identical to that in federal hate crimes statutes, this bill would remain unacceptable. It is a false equivalence to put law enforcement in the same category as people protected by federal hate crime laws, who have historically and systematically experienced discrimination. Further, it is an ineffective approach to improving public safety or preventing assaults on law enforcement officers.

I. State and federal criminal laws already offer ample protection to law enforcement officers.

The Protect and Serve Act perpetuates a false and dangerous narrative that law enforcement officers are under attack and in need of additional protections. On the contrary, all 50 states already have laws that enhance penalties for people who commit offenses against law enforcement officers, including for assaults and homicides.[4] Federal law also currently imposes a life sentence or death penalty on persons convicted of first-degree murder of federal employees or officers,[5] killing state and local law enforcement officers or other employees assisting with federal investigations,[6] and killing officers of the U.S. courts.[7] Federal law also contains penalties for those who assault federal law enforcement officers.[8]

Creating these protections for law enforcement officers akin to hate crimes is misguided and does not advance public safety nor is there evidence that the approach would be effective in preventing the harm it claims to address. Officers already benefit from significant protections under federal and state law. We urge Congress to embrace a more holistic approach to public safety that supports alternative responders for non-criminal and other low level 911 calls, expands and institutionalizes restorative justice programs, and invests in equitable access to education, health care, housing, and economic opportunities — rather than continuing to invest in a system that predominantly leads to arrest, incarceration, or worse.

II. The greatest threat of violence in police interactions stems from law enforcement officers and their actions.

The loss of any life, including law enforcement, is tragic. But laws already exist to address violence committed against law enforcement officers. There are not, however, sufficient measures to prevent the loss of life created by law enforcement. Law enforcement officers have continued to engage in egregious violence, disproportionately against Black and Brown people, even when they are unarmed, present no threat, and have committed either no crimes or extremely minor offenses. On January 3, 2023, Keenan Anderson was involved in a traffic accident.[9] In an ensuing encounter with Los Angeles Police Department officers, multiple officers restrained him while one officer tased him consecutively at least six times in 42 seconds.[10] Mr. Anderson died hours later. On January 7, 2023, Tyre Nichols was stopped by Memphis Police officers for alleged reckless driving and was so badly beaten by officers during the encounter that he died in the hospital three days later.[11] On February 22, 2023, Timothy Johnson was shot and killed while unarmed by a Fairfax County Police officer after a foot pursuit upon the belief that Mr. Johnson had stolen sunglasses.[12] In the past 12 months, law enforcement officers have shot and killed 1,074 people, based on limited available data that does not capture other forms of fatal force or serious force inflicted by officers.[13] It is insulting to these victims and their families that Congress has yet to act to enact police accountability but is considering a law that would provide superfluous protections to police officers.

For the reasons summarized above, we urge you to oppose introduction, co-sponsorship, or a vote on the Protect and Serve Act of 2023. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. If you have any questions, please contact Chloé White, senior policy counsel, justice, at The Leadership Conference, at, or Kristina Roth, senior policy associate at LDF, at (347) 978-5212 or




The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Advancement Project

Alabama State Association of Cooperatives (AL)

Alíanza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.

American Civil Liberties Union

American Friends Service Committee

Amnesty International USA

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network


Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Bend the Arc Jewish Action: South Jersey (NJ)

Brockton Interfaith Community (MA)

Carolina Jews for Justice (NC)

Center for Law and Social Policy

Center for Policing Equity

Center for Security, Race and Rights

Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism

Civil Rights Corps

Color Of Change

Drug Policy Alliance

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch


Innocence Project

Jewish Community Action (MN)

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (IL)

Jewish Youth for Community Action (CA)

Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) (NY)

Justice Strategies


LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

March On / Future Coalition

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Mitsui Collective


Muslim Advocates


National Action Network

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

National Employment Law Project

National Organization for Women

National Urban League

People For the American Way

PFLAG National

Pretrial Justice Institute

Project On Government Oversight

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association


Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)

Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund

T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

The Sentencing Project

The Sikh Coalition

The Workers Circle

Tivnu: Building Justice (OR)

True Colors United

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE)

WAVE Educational Fund (WI)


CC:       The Honorable Charles Schumer, Majority Leader,  The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader


[1] Protect and Serve Act of 2023. H.R. 743.118th Cong. 2023.

[2] Language in H.R. 734 mimics provisions of 18 U.S.C.A. § 249 (Westlaw through P.L. 117-327). Specifically, the penalty, H.R. 734 (2)(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C.A. § 249(a)(1)(A); circumstances described or applicable, H.R. 743 (2)(b) and 18 U.S.C.A. §249(a)(B); certification requirement, H.R. 734 (a)(2) and 18 U.S.C.A. § 249(a)(B)(b); and the rule of construction H.R. 734 (2)(c)(2) and 18 U.S.C.A. § 249 (a)(B)(b)(2) are comparable.

[3] See 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 245, 249 (cited as Federally Protected Activities and Hate Crime Acts, respectively, under Chapter 13 of Title 18), both require that a person act willfully in the commission of the criminal offenses addressed under the statute, but H.R. 743 relies on a lower mens rea standard of knowingly. This heightens protections for officers above those of people experiencing violence based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. See 18 U.S.C.A. § 249.

[4] “Statutes Providing Enhanced Penalties for Crimes Against Police.” Anti-Defamation League. 2016.; see also Bedi, Monu. “The Asymmetry of Crimes By and Against Police Officers.” 66 Duke L.J. Online 79. 2017.

[5] 18 U.S.C.A. § 1114 (Westlaw through P.L. 117-327).

[6] 18 U.S.C.A. § 1121(a)(1) (Westlaw through P.L. 117-327).

[7] 18 U.S.C.A. § 1503 (Westlaw through P.L. 117-327).

[8] 18 U.S.C.A. § 111 (Westlaw through P.L. 117-327).

[9] Olson, Emily. “A $50M Claim Is Filed Against LA Over the Death of a Man Who Was Tased by Police.” NPR. Jan. 21, 2023. footage.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Franklin, Jonathan, & Bowman, Emma. “What We Know About the Killing of Tyre Nichols.” NPR. Jan. 28, 2023.

[12] Burke, Minyvonne. “Virginia Officer Who Fatally Shot Timothy Johnson Is Fired As Police Release Bodycam Video.” NBC News. Mar. 23, 2023. johnson-fired-police-release-bod-rcna76296.

[13] “1,074 People Have Been Shot and Killed by Police in the Past 12 Months.” Wash. Post. Apr. 24, 2023. (Based on incomplete data collected by the Washington Post, law enforcement officers killed over one thousand people in 2022).


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