NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Republican lawmakers met at Legislative Plaza Monday to announce a package of proposed bills aimed at keeping law enforcement officers safe.
The bills would increase the penalties for offenders convicted of assaults on officers.
“The men and women of law enforcement have come under attack in this country and it’s time we, the lawmakers, take their back,” said Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville.
The 2016 session is over, so the three proposed measures won’t come up until next year.
Green said the timing of Monday’s announcement was intentional.
“Just last week over a 72-hour period across the U.S., seven police officers were shot and one of them was killed,” he said.
The proposed bills elevate charges of assault on a law enforcement officer from a misdemeanor to a felony. They also classify killing or attempting to kill an officer because of their employment as a hate crime. They would also levy a fine against anyone who publishes an officer’s home address to the public.
All of this is a product of the Tennessee Blue Lives Matter coalition. The bills’ sponsors want to be clear about the name.
“This is not intended to compete with other efforts. It’s not intended to minimize other efforts. Those efforts are important,” Green said.
Other questions remain about the increasing cost of incarcerating criminals who would now be charged with a felony for assaulting an officer.
“We’re hoping people would look at it and think maybe it’s not a good idea to attack a police officer,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
When a similar bill was presented three years ago, a fiscal review committee estimated it would cost the state just over $1 million.
Law enforcement in attendance praised the legislation, including Robertson County Sheriff Bill Holt.
“It may not stop all the crimes, certainly it’s not going to, but certainly it says the legislature has our back,” said Holt, who is also the former deputy director of the TBI.
Tennessee Sheriff’s Association President Terry Ash told Channel 4 he supports the three bills announced, but said he would like to see more efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
“While I’ve never served as a law enforcement officer, as a veteran with trips to Iraq and Afghanistan I understand what it means to raise your right hand a swear an oath to protect freedom,” Said Sen. Mark Green. “Our men and women in blue, and all the other shades of uniforms who place themselves between evil, those who would do us harm, to protect us deserve our unending devotion. Even more they deserve our protection. People who target police should pay a higher price as it is an attack on all of us, it is an attack on freedom itself. I pray this ‘Blue Lives Matter Initiative’ will raise awareness to this despicable trend and rally the citizens of Tennessee to defend those who defend us.”