I interviewed Pennsylvania Senator Mike Regan for Broad + Liberty last year for a piece about the war on cops.
I noted in the piece that nearly every Philly cop I spoke to believes there is a war on cops. The cops I speak to complain about a vocal segment of the public that demonizes them, and a criminal element that feels empowered to assault and too often murder them with impunity. Cops truly believe they are easy targets due to their lack of political support from both the city and the media at large.
I reached out to Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Regan for the piece, as he is not only the Chairman of the Law & Justice Committee in Harrisburg, he’s also a retired U.S. Marshal.
Senator Regan served 23 years in the U.S. Marshals Service. He was the Fugitive Task Force Commander for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, working with local law enforcement to capture fugitives that posed a danger to Pennsylvanians. He later became the U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
He said he decided to become a state senator as he saw how the failed policies of Harrisburg did not support law enforcement efforts during the height of the opioid epidemic. He stated that he saw being in the legislature as an opportunity to continue his public service and he believed that his law enforcement experience would contribute to decisions being made in Harrisburg.
In response to my question if there is in fact a war on cops, he responded: “It’s so unfortunate to see the spike in the number of police officers who are senselessly killed, and my heart goes out to those grieving families. There is no question that there are individuals and groups among us who seek out police officers to attack simply because they wear a badge and uniform.”
On February 23rd, Senator Regan put out a press release calling for mandatory death sentences for convicted cop killers in response to the brutal murder of a Temple University police officer.
“On Feb. 18, 2023, the life of a Temple University police officer was violently and deliberately taken by a young man who shot the officer multiple times in the face and torso. The perpetrator then proceeded to attempt to rob the officer and take his firearm,’ Senator Regan stated. “Officer Christopher David Fitzgerald, the son of two law enforcement officers, was just 31 years old. He left behind a wife and four children. “Unfortunately, in this commonwealth, we are seeing ever-increasing attacks on law enforcement. Just since the start of this year – in less than two months – there have been seven police officers shot and killed in the line of duty across our nation and three of those have been in Pennsylvania. That is absolutely unacceptable.
“The gunman chose to sentence Officer Fitzgerald to death on a street in Philadelphia. Why should the gunman not receive the same sentence?”
As Senator Regan noted, current Pennsylvania law calls for either the death penalty or life imprisonment for the first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, which is the intentional killing of an officer while in the performance of duty knowing the victim is a law enforcement officer. The senator stated that he intends to introduce legislation to eliminate the option for life imprisonment.
“There should be no debate upon conviction of such a heinous and selfish crime,” Senator Regan said. “As a former member of law enforcement, I feel it is my obligation to offer this legislation. It is my hope that taking this hardline approach will provide a proper deterrent to those who prey on and willfully murder the men and women who so bravely serve us.”
He added that it was time that police officers and their loved ones were shown that that elected officials stand with them during one of the most violent periods in our commonwealth’s history.
“Being a law enforcement officer today is more dangerous than ever before, and officers never know if they will return home at the end of the shift. We must do our part to serve and protect those who serve and protect us through this much needed and long overdue change to our criminal justice system,” Senator Regan said.
The bill is unlikely to find its way out of the Democrat-controlled House, and even if it did, there is a good chance that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike it down. But even discussing it in the state senate sends a message to law enforcement officers across the state: there are still people in state government who support you and value your contribution to the peace and safety of this commonwealth.
Governor Josh Shapiro does not agree. On February 16th, the governor stated unequivocally that he won’t allow the commonwealth to execute prisoners, and he called for the repeal of the death penalty in Pennsylvania. It’s hard to imagine him signing Regan’s bill into law.
I agree with Senator Regan. If a criminal is bold enough to murder an armed police officer who is backed up by thousands of his fellow armed officers, then that criminal will be bold enough to murder anyone, anywhere and anytime.
Paul Davis is a Philadelphia writer who covers crime.