JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A Jackson police officer is being credited with helping change a state law that deals with stricter penalties for sex offenders.
Jackson police investigator Mark Headen says he became mad when he learned that a violent sex offender was again suspected of stalking more than a dozen women.
The Jackson Sun reports that Headen (http://bit.ly/Lyii2g ) proposed a state amendment to increase indecent exposure and stalking charges to Class E felonies punishable by up to six years in prison if the crime is committed by a registered sex offender.
Before Headen worked to change the law, anyone charged with indecent exposure would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable with a maximum 30 days in jail, while a stalking charge was a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days.
“I went to Capt. (Thom) Corley and said, ‘What do I gotta do to change the law?’ He said I need to write an amendment,” Headen said. “It wasn’t a big formulation or complicated law. I don’t have a law degree. I wrote a sentence twice.”
State Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, says the new statute will go into effect July 1. Gov. Bill Haslam already signed the bill into law, he said.
Once he formulated the amendment, Headen took it to Corley and Jackson Police Chief Gill Kendrick, who both brought it to the Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs. The organization decided to fight to get the amendment passed.
Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork presented it to the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, who also agreed to support it.
“We met with Sen. Lowe Finney and he was all for it. It just kept moving on,” Headen said. “Sen. Finney did his magic up in Nashville.”
Finney and Rep. Joe Pitts took Headen’s bill and made it an amendment to the current sentencing law. Both legislators co-sponsored the bill.
Finney said the process of changing the law illustrated that legislators are heavily dependent upon the leaders of the local community to point them in the right direction.
“It’s a help to us when local law enforcement is able to write the language of the bill, and this was backed by the state chiefs of police, which was helpful,” Finney said.