The mother of slain Chicago officer Ella French received a round of applause Tuesday morning during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on law enforcement officer safety.
Two brothers, 22-year-old Eric Morgan and 21-year-old Monty "Emonte" Morgan, are accused of fatally shooting French, who was 29 at the time of her death, while she was conducting a traffic stop in August 2021.
"Officer Ella French is remembered for her beloved and profound generosity and her passion for service," Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during the hearing. "My wife and I went down to St. Rita Chapel to join in the memorial service. We have never seen an outpouring of grief like we saw that day. We joined hundreds, maybe thousands, of mourners that were there. Ella's mother, Elizabeth French, is here with us today. I want to thank her personally for being here and for honoring the legacy of her wonderful daughter."
Durbin's comments were followed by applause from those watching the hearing, as well as those participating in it. The Illinois senator also announced the introduction of the Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act of 2022, which aims to "provide funding to multi-jurisdictional task forces that investigate and disrupt straw purchasing and illegal firearm purchasing."
Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent David Brown tweeted his support for the bill Tuesday.
"Officer Ella French dedicated her life to making our communities safer & died while protecting the people of our city," he wrote. "The Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act of 2022 that was introduced today is a testament to Ella & her legacy that continues to inspire all of us."
CPD Chief Novalez Angel described Ella as "a source of light and joy for all who knew her" during his Tuesday testimony.
The shooting that left French dead also left her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., critically wounded. A third officer, Joshua Blas, returned fire, striking Monty Morgan as he ran away, police said at the time.
"Her partner, Carlos, remarked that he was beautiful inside and out," said Angel, who later said that he, too, has sustained gunshot wounds while on duty. "The injuries sustained from this injury remain with me today, professionally, physically, and in the private corners of my mind. I still struggle with my wounds, as many officers around the country are struggling with …the injuries they've sustained and the traumatic human experiences they witness every single day on the job."
Much of Tuesday's hearing focused on the violence law enforcement officers face on a day-to-day basis while responding to emergency calls or conducting routine inspections.
Some lawmakers pointed to the prevalence of illegal firearms in large cities that contribute not only to violence against officers but civilians, as well. In 2021, the FBI counted 73 officers intentionally killed in the line of duty — a nearly 59% increase compared to the 46 intentionally killed in 2020. The last time more than 72 officers were killed was in 1995, when 74 officers were intentionally killed on the job, according to the FBI's law enforcement officers killed in action (LEOKA) data.
The next highest number of officers intentionally killed on duty was 72 in 2011, according to LEOKA data analyzed in a report by the Heartland Institute.
Other lawmakers highlighted recent anti-police sentiment and a lack of respect for or trust in authority following the 2020 "defund the police" movement.
"The main cause of this violence against police is the demonization and the disrespect shown to the profession of law enforcement throughout the country," Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Calif., said during the hearing. "When you allow hatred of a group to spread, people find it easy to justify violent attacks against law enforcement."
Democratic lawmakers, including Durbin, noted that President Biden's $37 billion Safer America Act aims to allocate more funding to struggling police departments and other public safety measures. However, experts have argued that the legislation falls short of helping departments attract and retain officers — an issue that has plagued law enforcement across the country over the last two years.
Fox News' Danielle Wallace and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.