By Judge Brian Addington, Gray
I recently came across the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
This happened while researching coins; I used to collect them and was wondering about the price of a coin I previously owned. While doing so, I discovered that the U.S. Mint issued a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Silver Dollar in 1997. The proceeds were used for the preservation of the memorial.
This got me thinking about where the memorial is located: in the 400 block of E Street, NW, Washington DC. The memorial features two curving walls containing the names of officers killed in the line of duty from 1791 to present.
In searching the memorial’s website, I found that 537 officers have been killed in Tennessee. To me, this is a sad, shocking figure.
I remember vividly several law enforcement deaths in Tennessee. Officer Mark Vance was killed in 2004 responding to a domestic call in Bristol. A walking trail was named in his honor, and I have walked it several times. Officer Christy Jo Dedman was killed in 2004 in Nashville by a tractor trailer while she assisted a motorist. And Waverly Police Chief Guy Barnett was killed in 1978 when a liquefied-petroleum gas tank exploded following a train derailment in the town.
Most injuries a police officer may suffer do not have a presumption that they were caused by the work. However, law enforcement is hard, stressful work and Tennessee Code Annotated section 7-51-201(a)(1) provides a presumption that any health impairment due to hypertension or heart disease occurred due to accidental injury in the line and course of employment. An employee seeking benefits under this section must prove the employee is a police officer that suffers from hypertension or heart disease that required medical treatment, and the employee’s prior medical exams did not indicate the employee suffered from these conditions.
As I think back through my life, there have definitely been times I’ve needed law enforcement’s help. I am sure you have, too. I have several friends in law enforcement and realize I don’t pray for them often enough.
May 15 is National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Take some time that day, and/or today, to remember the officers who have died protecting our great state.