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Rep. Jeff Burkhart honors Tennessee’s fallen officers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Jeff Burkhart, R-Clarksville, today commemorated National Police Week and urged citizens of House District 75 to honor and remember law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the family members, friends, and fellow officers they left behind.

The names of 282 officers killed in the line of duty will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 15.

“During National Police Week, all Tennesseans have an opportunity to reflect and remember the lives of law enforcement who have given their all for their community,” Burkhart said. “Police officers do an extremely dangerous job and are not thanked enough for their hard work, passion and public service. In Tennessee, we respect and honor all first responders for their selfless work.”

Seven of the fallen officers being added to the memorial are from Tennessee and include Sgt. James Russ, Chattanooga Police Dept; Deputy Tucker Blakely, Knox County Sheriff’s Office; Sgt. William Cherry, Macon County Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Shannon Lang Sr., Marion County Police Dept.; Officer Geoffrey Redd, Memphis Police Dept., and Chief Christopher Cummings, Samburg Police Dept. Town Marshal Thomas Neely, Middleton Police Dept., was killed in the line of duty in 1899.

Burkhart and his Republican colleagues took steps this year to strengthen laws to protect police officers against assault with the Back The Blue Act.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, offers additional protections that will enhance the penalty for assault against a law enforcement officer from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony punishable by a mandatory minimum 60-day sentence and a $10,000 fine.

“The Back the Blue Act is important legislation that will protect our state’s great law enforcement officers,” Burkhart said. “I was proud to support it and I look forward to continuing to back the blue in the future.”

In Tennessee, assaulting a first responder, including nurses, firefighters, and emergency services personnel, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Assault includes knowingly causing bodily injury or knowingly causing offensive physical contact, including spitting, throwing or transferring bodily fluids, human pathogens or waste onto a first responder.

There were 1,603 simple assaults on law enforcement officers last year in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. 

Sixty police officers across Tennessee have died in the line of duty since 2019, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a non-profit dedicated to honoring fallen officers across the United States.

State Rep. Jeff Burkhart represents House District 75, which includes part of Montgomery County. He serves on the Commerce Committee, Local Government Committee, Transportation Committee, Business and Utilities Subcommittee, and the Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee.

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