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NC House takes important steps to support law enforcement, first responders and firefighters

The McDowell News

By Majority Leader John Bell and Rep. Dudley Greene

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This legislative session, the North Carolina House has passed numerous bills to support those who serve and protect our communities. From firefighters and paramedics to law enforcement and correctional officers, we have made it a priority to ensure that they have the resources and funding they need and deserve.

Now more than ever, we need to stand up for law enforcement officers. While some politicians push to defund the police, we are working to further support, train and equip these brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.


Sadly, one issue many law enforcement officers face today is mental health illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 4 police officers have thoughts of suicide at some point in their life.

That is why we passed into law, House Bill 436, which expands access to mental health resources for law enforcement officers by increasing and improving wellness training, support, and screenings.

Furthermore, many first responders experience horrible scenes and events which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). House Bill 492 helps address that by allowing first responders, whether a law enforcement officer, firefighter, 911 dispatcher, paramedic, or emergency medical technician, to receive workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD.

With so many first responders suffering from mental illness due to experiences at their job, making sure they receive compensation for both mental and physical injuries is critically important.

To that end, the state legislature created a new $7.5 million assistance program in the budget to help firefighters diagnosed with work-related cancers. We also passed House Bill 355, which bans toxic firefighting foam that has been linked to cancer.


Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population. These provisions will provide additional protections for firefighters, as well as support should they face a cancer diagnosis due to their service.


With violence against police officers on the rise over the past few years, it is important we do more to protect those who keep our communities safe.

According to the FBI, there was a 51 percent increase in the number of police officers killed in the line of duty from January 2021 to September 2021. In 2020, over 60,100 law enforcement officers nationwide were assaulted while performing their duties. Many times, their equipment is also targeted and damaged.


That is why we approved House Bill 36 to increase the punishment for firing at an emergency vehicle and House Bill 761 to enhance penalties for breaking into a law enforcement vehicle. We also passed House Bill 418 to make it a crime to threaten to hurt, harm, or kill an officer.


Lastly, we approved House Bill 805 to impose stronger penalties for those who engage in violent protests. The First Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully protest — but that does not include rioting, looting, and destroying property.

As legislators, we have a duty to support those who are on the frontlines responding to emergencies and keeping our communities. Rest assured, we will continue to stand up for our North Carolina law enforcement officers, first responders and firefighters.


Rep. Dudley Greene serves the citizens of Avery, McDowell, and Mitchell counties. He is a former Sheriff of McDowell County. Rep. John Bell is the North Carolina House Majority Leader. He represents Greene, Johnston, and Wayne counties.

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