Police chiefs from around the country on Tuesday supported longer prison terms for gun-carrying felons as a way to combat a recent rise in police deaths in the line of duty.
Attorney General Eric Holder directed the 93 U.S. attorneys nationwide to identify repeat offenders for possible prosecution under federal law that would make them eligible for stiffer sentences.
A total of 162 officers died in the line of duty last year, up from 117 in 2009. So far this year, 49 have lost their lives, a 20 percent rise from the same time last year.
At a meeting in the Justice Department with visiting police chiefs, Holder said he couldn't imagine how his family would feel if his brother, now a retired law enforcement officer, had been killed while on the job.
At least one of the participants in the meeting, West Memphis, Ark., Police Chief Bob Paudert, has experienced the tragedy that the attorney general described.
Paudert's police officer son Brandon and a second officer, Bill Evans, were shot to death last year by a man and his son during a traffic stop. The father and son, who was firing an AK-47, had been advocates of anti-government causes.
In an interview after Tuesday's meeting, Paudert said the federal government had information about the two shooters' ties to anti-government groups.
Federal agencies need to do a better job of sharing information with state and local law enforcement agencies, Paudert said.
Holder also directed the 93 U.S. attorneys to inform state, local and tribal enforcement agencies of federal programs designed to protect officers.
After the meeting, Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld said the law enforcement community needs to look at the issue more broadly _ focusing on what steps can make Americans safer, not just police officers.
In the Paudert case, the two suspects were slain in a shootout with police about 90 minutes after the slayings of Brandon Paudert and Evans.