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Senate Passes Whitehouse Bill on Federal Assistance in Mass Killing Investigations

Bill will explicitly authorize federal law enforcement agents to help investigate and respond to mass killings and other violent crimes

Update: House passed the Senate version of this bill on January 1, 2013

Washington, DC – Today, the United States Senate passed U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, which authorizes federal law enforcement agencies to assist state and local counterparts in responding to mass shootings or other violent crimes that take place in public areas such as schools, shopping malls, or office buildings. Whitehouse introduced the bill last year, and today the bill passed the Senate unanimously.

“The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are often crucial allies for local and state officials working to respond to mass shootings and other violent crimes, as they have been in Connecticut over the past few days,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This bill will give these agencies clear authority to continue to provide this assistance to the state and local law enforcement officials who have primary responsibility to solve these terrible crimes and protect our communities.”

Upon request, the FBI and select other federal agencies often provide assistance to state and local law enforcement in response to violent crimes in public venues. The absence of an explicit statutory authorization, however, can create unnecessary delays and risks allowing agents responding to these violent crimes to be held liable even though their only goal is to protect the public. To address this risk, the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act provides explicit authorization for the FBI, other law enforcement components at the Justice Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service to provide such assistance when requested.

The bill does not expand the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement agencies and only applies when a state or local authority requests assistance from a federal agency. The bill does not impose new criminal penalties or regulations.

The House passed a companion measure (H.R. 2076) last year by a vote of 358-9. The Senate bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee in November 2011.

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