House Republicans Push Legislation Forward to Protect First Responders

Tennessee House Republicans Push Stringent Bills To Increase Penalties For Those Who Harm First Responders As They Perform Their Official Duties.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

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Published March 25, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Republicans continue to push through legislation to offer additional protections to first responders.

State Representatives Bryan Terry and Charlie Baum of Murfreesboro announced the creation of the “First Responder Safety Act”, known as House Bill 585, back in October 2020. The initiative was introduced for consideration in the 2021 Tennessee General Assembly.

The bill addresses concerns related to threats made against public safety officials while they are performing their professional duties.

It would specifically target attacks that do not meet the legal definition of assault. A key component of the bill is the addition of an offense of “bias-motivated intimidation” which would include any malicious and intentional attempt to harass or intimidate a first responder.

Currently, Tennessee law stipulates that individuals who engage in negative actions towards first responders can be charged with either harassment or terrorism. House Bill 585 would enhance that harassment charge.

Representative Terry hopes to see this legislation help to eliminate some of the issues with recruitment and retention of first responders, which will also help increase public safety.

“The recruitment and retention of high-quality law enforcement officers and first responders is paramount to ensuring the public’s safety. Target attacks on these individuals deters quality applicants, and it expedites officer retirements, which creates safety challenges,” Terry stated. “We understand the concerns some have with our justice system; I have always worked to make improvements, but we can’t allow acts meant to coerce or intimidate police and first responders to occur, especially when they negatively impact public safety.”

Representative Baum acknowledged the importance of supporting first responders by implementing this stricter legislation.

Baum stated, “We are looking to ensure that our first responders can perform their duties knowing that attacks, whether physical or non-physical, are a violation of the law. First responders protect our communities. They have our backs, and they need to know that our communities have theirs.”

Another bill adding more protection for first responders is scheduled for today on the regular House calendar.

House Bill 511, introduced by Representative Ron Gant of Rossville, would increase the penalty for the murder of an on-duty first responder to an act of terrorism. If an individual is found guilty, the sentence would be either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Representative Gant tweeted, “Grateful for the service of first responders and law enforcement who dedicate their lives to protecting our communities and helping us in times of need. I’m proud to sponsor HB511 which adds new protections for these brave men and women in the line of duty.”

The bill has made its way through several subcommittees and has been recommended for passing with amendments.

The amendments add specific language under the definition of terrorism to increase the protection for law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency medical workers.

Gant also acknowledged the need for a clear and firm response to attacks on first responders.

“This legislation sends a strong message of support to those brave men and women, but also makes very clear that targeting or killing first responders will not be tolerated and will result in severe punishment.”

If passed, House Bill 511 would be one of the nation’s most stringent pieces of legislation providing protection for first responders.

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