Tougher evading arrest legislation questioned by black Memphis lawmaker

Feb 7, 2020

State Rep. William Lamberth (R) Portland, TN, and Rep. Antonia Parkinson (D) Memphis, TN.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Tricia Watt) -- A Tennessee lawmaker is dedicating proposed legislation to a fallen mid-state police officer, but the measure is facing some opposition.

Hendersonville Officer Spencer Bristol was struck and killed crossing I-65 in December while chasing a suspect police say was evading arrest.

In reaction, Republican Rep. William Lamberth of Portland introduced a measure stiffening penalties for fleeing suspects if a pursuing officer suffers "serious bodily injury" during the incident.

During the bill’s first committee hearing this week, black Memphis lawmaker Rep. Antonia Parkinson expressed concerns.

“People that look like myself are getting killed by officers... Sometimes it’s a choice of do I run and live to turn myself in, or do I stand here and take the chance of not living.”

Rep. Lamberth responded that he understood Parkinson's concerns, and acknowledged that police officers are sometimes in the wrong, but concluded...

"There's never a situation that I'm aware of where evading arrest is going to make that situation better."

In spite of Rep. Parkinson’s concerns, the measure passed easily. It moves next to the full House Criminal Justice Committee for consideration.