Tennessee majority leader wants 'blue lives matter' law that would make it a hate crime to target police

Chattanooga police investigate in the 1500 block of Arlington Avenue on Monday night following reports of shots fired in the area.
photo FILE - In this March 8, 2016, file photo, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, speaks during a House Finance Committee hearing in Nashville, Tenn. McCormick on Tuesday, April 19, vowed retribution for companies that spoke out against a transgender bathroom bill, suggesting that lawmakers should consider limiting tax incentives and grants to them. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

NASHVILLE - State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said Tuesday he's working with legal staff on a "Blue Lives Matter" bill for next year that would make it a hate crime to target Tennessee police and first responders.

The legislation, the Chattanooga Republican said, would put public safety workers in a "protected class" and boost criminal penalties and fines for violators who specifically target and attack them.

McCormick cited recent attacks in Memphis as helping spur the legislation.

"I have enormous respect for the men and women who put on a uniform and risk their lives on a daily basis to serve and protect our communities," McCormick said in a news release. "Just recently, I read about an incident in our state that involved individuals firing multiple shots at a highway patrol station."

The incident occurred in Memphis. Meanwhile, Memphis Police Officer Verdell Smith, 46, died Saturday from injuries after being struck by the fleeing vehicle of a man suspected in a downtown shooting that left three other people wounded, according to news reports.

"Frankly, I'm tired of watching the news and seeing our public servants assaulted by those they protect," McCormick said. "Individuals must realize that attacking a police officer or a firefighter or emergency medical personnel in this state simply will not be tolerated, and I believe this legislation will help meet that goal."

The name McCormick chose for the bill mirrors that of the Blue Lives Matter organization and movement. The organization arose in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of police shootings of unarmed black males.

Blue Lives Matter is intended to help police officers and their families.

A spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens for Justice, a local social justice group that supports the Black Lives Matter movement, could not be reached for comment about the proposed legislation Tuesday night. Members of the movement in Nashville were similarly unavailable.