Indiana Representative Trey Hollingsworth introduced legislation to the House on May 19 that, if passed, would allow law enforcement officers to enter civilian buildings without removing their firearms.
Under existing law, officers are required to remove their firearms when entering these buildings when they are not responding to emergencies.
Under Hollingsworth’s new legislation, the Protecting Officers of the Law in Civilian Establishments Act of 2017, or the POLICE Act, that could change.
Hollingsworth said he was first contacted by Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop, who brought the idea for the legislation.
Loop and other officers often have to conduct personal business during the day between work hours, Hollingsworth said. When they need to go to buildings like the Veterans Administration hospitals or Social Security Administration offices, they have to leave their firearms in the car.
Hollingsworth and other legislators who support the bill say this puts law enforcement officers, who are already significantly more vulnerable targets, at risk.
“Ultimately in the event of an emergency, Frank Loop and others in law enforcement are the ones people would call,” Hollingsworth said. “We trust law enforcement and that trust doesn’t end at the door of a federal facility.”
The bill would allow armed law enforcement officers to enter buildings with Facility Security Level I and II, which are described as buildings who house routine federal activities with a moderate volume of public contact.
“A lot is asked from the men and women who wear the shield of a police officer,” Hollingsworth said in a press release. “The very nature of their job involves dangers that must be met without hesitation or reservation. With responsibilities such as these, unnecessary hurdles should not exist that would prevent a duly sworn and readily identifiable law enforcement officer from carrying their firearm into certain civilian facilities that rely on these very officers to respond in instances of emergency.”
Hollingsworth said he continues to hear resounding support for the legislation and does not foresee much opposition. Hollingsworth said him and his team talked to federal agencies, stakeholders, Republicans, Democrats and law enforcement about the bill and its goals.
“I want law enforcement in Indiana and across the country to know we stand behind them,” he said. “I hope what they take away from this is that I’m responsive to their concerns.”
Law enforcement officers are permitted to carry their firearms outside of their jurisdictions, both on and off duty under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which was passed in 2004.
The theory behind this legislation was that officers retain their experience, training and identity whether they are responding to an emergency or not.
However, the law still exempted buildings such as federal facilities, or private property where firearms are not permitted, such as amusement parks, private clubs and bars.