President Donald Trump signed into law an executive order Monday, just two days before departing the White House, that will enhance protection for active and retired “qualified” — as defined by the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 — federal law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, and their families.
“Under the Constitution and federal law, our Government vests in judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers the power to make decisions of enormous consequence. Because of the importance of their work, these public servants face unique risks to their safety and the safety of their families,” reads the executive order. “Some who face or have received an adverse judicial decision have sought to intimidate or punish judges and prosecutors with threats of harm. Moreover, judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers are symbols within our communities of law and order and may be targeted for that reason alone. And at times, family members of public servants have become victims.”
The document references the attempted murder of US District Court Judge Esther Salas as part of the reasoning behind the executive order. Salas’ 20-year-old son was shot and killed, and her husband was shot and critically wounded, later recovering.
“This tragedy, every mother’s worst nightmare, happened for a reason wholly unrelated to either my husband or my son, but because of my job: I am a United States District Court judge,” Salas said in an opinion essay in The New York Times. “A lawyer who had appeared before me was angered by the pace of a lawsuit he had filed in my court. He came to my home seeking revenge. My attacker sought to hurt me but his ire, and his focus, were not unique. Federal judges are at risk from other would-be attackers.”
The executive order requires the removal of any barriers keeping active or retired federal law enforcement officers from carrying a concealed firearm. All departments and agencies employing qualified LEOs now must submit a report to the president, in which they must identify the barriers facing LEOs from carrying a concealed firearm. They must also explain why the department or agency did not remove these barriers before the executive order was put in place and indicate steps toward implementing the policy in the future.
Federal prosecutors will undergo special deputation as deputy United States marshals when faced with threats to themselves or their family members to allow them to carry a concealed firearm, regardless of any current state or federal laws that would prohibit it. The executive order also details that when federal judges, prosecutors, and/or their families are threatened, they can carry a concealed firearm for protection regardless of state or federal restrictions.
The prosecutors’ special deputation only grants the ability to carry a firearm and does not grant them law enforcement powers such as the power to arrest. If a prosecutor is deputized, they are required to undergo firearm safety training and instruction on how to use a firearm, per the executive order.
The executive order also requires the US Marshals Service to prioritize the protection of federal judges and federal prosecutors. It requires the US attorney general to prioritize investigations into threats to LEOs, prosecutors, and judges employed at the federal level.
The attorney general and the secretary of homeland security are ordered to cooperate on a review of the executive branch to “assess the feasibility” of removing or minimizing personally identifiable information in the public domain pertaining to active or retired LEOs, prosecutors, and judges. Also, the people identified as “at risk” will be informed of the review’s findings when it’s concluded.
Trump’s executive order also requires that “heads of all agencies” review what personal information they are collecting from prosecutors, judges, and LEOs while allowing them to provide a post office box address instead of a home address for official purposes.
The Department of Homeland Security, the US Marshals Service, and the FBI will be granted additional authority and appropriations such as additional personnel and the authority to respond to civil unrest and threats to federal courthouses, such as the incidents in Portland, Oregon, over the summer.
Penalties for threats and committed violence against federal judges, prosecutors, and LEOs are to be increased, and any threat or violence against their families will be treated as if committed against the federal employee.