Police, fire, health department protections approved by House

FRANKFORT— Those convicted of attempted murder of law enforcement or firefighters in Kentucky would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences under a bill approved on Tuesday by the House.

House Bill 137 would put criminal attempt to commit murder of a readily identifiable on-duty law enforcement officer or firefighter on par with other violent offenses by setting an 85-percent rule for parole eligibility regardless of whether the officer or firefighter is seriously injured, said Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, the bill’s sponsor.

Those convicted of the crime currently must only serve 20 percent of their sentence to be eligible for parole if the officer or firefighter is not seriously injured, said Watkins.

“The fact is that 33 percent of all inmates in Kentucky are paroled the first time they are eligible,” he said.

Voting in support of HB 137 was Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, who said he was casting his vote in memory of Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis, who died last year after he was shot by a robbery suspect. The suspect in the shooting, Raleigh Sizemore, is a convicted felon who was being sought for parole violations before Officer Ellis was killed.

“I totally support this 85-percent rule…and I would encourage every member of this body to get behind it,” Carney said of HB 137.

Also voting in support of HB 137 was Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, who said she was also supporting the bill in honor of Officer Ellis.

“Many of you remember that Officer Ellis was killed in the line of duty,” Smart said. “So this is a really good bill, we need it, and I encourage the body to vote for it.”

HB 137 passed by a vote of 90-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The House also voted to strengthen protections for health department inspectors and other staff by passing HB 210 sponsored by Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, and Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville. That bill would allow anyone who “recklessly…or intentionally causes or attempts to cause physical injury to” on-duty public health officers or health department employees to be charged with third-degree assault.

Currently there are 10 professions in Kentucky that are granted the protections that health department workers would receive under HB 210. Teachers, social workers, law enforcement officers and firefighters are among the professions on the current list.

HB 210 passed by a vote of 88-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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