Sen. Akbari’s bill to reduce deaths in police custody heads to governor

Bill to require new officer training passed Senate unanimously

Tennessee Senate Democrats
2 min readFeb 22, 2024

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NASHVILLE — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Raumesh Akbari to reduce medical deaths in police custody passed the Senate 33–0 and is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 1242 would require the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to adopt guidelines instructing all local law enforcement officers on how best to respond when a person in police custody appears to be experiencing a medical crisis.

“This law enforcement training will ensure our local police officers are equipped with the tools they need to recognize and respond to a medical emergency involving a person in police custody,” said Sen. Akbari.

Last year, the NPR reported that deaths in custody have reached “crisis” levels and even the U.S. government doesn’t know how many people die in law enforcement custody or while imprisoned each year.

In Tennessee, there have been several recent high-profile deaths in police custody:

  • 60-year-old Lisa Edwards who died Feb. 5, 2023 in Knoxville police custody;
  • 19-year-old Courtney Ross who died Aug. 11, 2023 in Memphis police custody; and
  • 29-year-old Tyre Nichols who died in Memphis police custody after a Jan. 7, 2023 traffic stop.

The TBI produces an annual report on law enforcement-related deaths in Tennessee and classifies these fatalities as “arrest related non-forcible deaths” and “deaths in custody.” According to the 2022 report, there was one arrest related non-forcible death and 245 deaths in custody.

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Tennessee Senate Democrats

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly