Missouri senators discuss police reform; consequences for protesters

Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After months of discussion, police reform legislation is moving forward in Missouri as senators hope to change policing in the state.

During a Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing Monday, Democratic Senator from St. Louis Brian Williams asked lawmakers to ban police officers from using chokeholds, but across the aisle, one Republican senator wants to discuss the freedom of protesters.

Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) proposed a handful of provisions for public safety and unlawful assemblies in his bill, Senate Bill 66. Brattin told lawmakers in the committee Monday, he wants people to “think things through before they act against our law enforcement and first responders.”

“And to think that your right to protest enables you the right to stop traffic and literally stop people’s ability to move about freely in this nation is a gross misunderstanding of our constitutional rights,” Brattin said.

Those that spoke against the measure say it’s an attack on freedom of speech.

“If this bill is inactive, it would vilify nonviolent protesters,” Darryl Gray said. “I don’t believe that any members of this body would seek to shield drivers who willfully chose to run over protesters. This bill is a deliberate and funnel attack on democracy and freed of speech and assembly.”

Brad Lemon with the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police spoke in favor of the legislation.

“The protests have completely gotten out of control and police officers and citizens are going to hospitals because of it,” Lemon said.

Brattin’s bill would also withhold state funding to local governments if the body would decrease the budget for its local law enforcement agency and deny a state employee benefits if he or she has been convicted of participating in an unlawful assembly.

During the same committee, Senators discussed Williams police reform bill, Senate Bill 66.

“Banning chokeholds, banning sexual misconduct and making sure that bad officers aren’t allowed to avoid accountability for their actions,” Williams said. “It also adds a level of transparency for police department. to disclose bad actors in the police department to ensure that they are not going to other police departments and continue those practices.”

No one spoke in opposition to Williams’s bill during the hearing. He said it has bipartisan support, including support from law enforcement.

“We all want good policemen, we all want good police departments and we truly believe this is the first step in trying to get that done across the state,” Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey.

Williams’ bill also would penalize police officers who have sexual relations with a person in police custody.

“My bill specifically prohibits chokeholds as a form of restraint and classifies the offense of an officer engaging in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner in the custody of an officer as a Class E felony,” Williams said.

Republican Kansas City Senator Tony Luetkemeyer also presented his bill, Senate Bill 53, which reduces the residency requirements for Kansas City Police Officers.

The bill is similar to what lawmakers passed during a special session last year, reducing residency requirements for St. Louis Police officers and emergency service workers.

SB 53 would allow Kansas City officers to live within one-hour of response time.

None of the legislation in the hearing passed out of the committee.

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