A lot is asked from our law enforcement officers, especially at a time when crime is on the rise. Sadly, South Dakota’s violent crime rate nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015. If you look at domestic aggravated assault cases alone, police handled 129 in 2012. By 2016, they dealt with 276 cases. Drugs are also on our streets in increasing quantities, ripping families and friendships apart in many cases.
January 9 marked National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and while many South Dakotans recognize the tremendous role officers play throughout the year, it is nice to set aside a special day of gratitude.
To give law enforcement added support in the fight against drugs, I helped pass the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, which broadened the scope of people subject to criminal prosecution for drug trafficking. I also voted for the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act to enhance coordination between criminal justice, substance abuse agencies, and first responders.
Additionally, I’m working to help law enforcement in indirect ways. For instance, the CUFF Act, which I introduced, prohibits individuals with outstanding felony warrants or parole violations from receiving certain Social Security benefits. Hardworking taxpayers should not have to pay people who are fleeing from the law. Not only is it unfair to ask taxpayers to do so, it’s self-defeating to subsidize someone’s attempt to shirk law enforcement. This bill was passed in the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
The Thin Blue Line Act was another bill I’m proud to support. The Thin Blue Line Act would make targeting or killing a police officer or first responder a determining factor in potential death penalty cases. Moreover, we passed, and President Trump signed, the Public Safety Officer’s Benefits Improvement Act, which aimed to reduce the backlog of families waiting on approval for survivor benefits.
While I don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes, I’m hopeful the choices I’ve made better equip law enforcement as they carry out their day-to-day duties. Thank you to all who serve.