Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Tuesday he’s willing to consider proposals to require outside law enforcement agencies to investigate police-involved killings.
It’s a proposal that’s gaining more attention amid protests over Jason Stockley’s acquittal of first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
During a news conference in Jefferson City, Greitens was asked about the idea of having another agency, like the Missouri Highway Patrol, examine situations in which a police officer kills someone. The Ferguson Commission recommended in its 2015 report bringing outside prosecutors and police departments to look into officer-involved killings.
“I haven’t thought about that deeply,” Greitens said. “I’d want to make sure I talk with the Missouri Highway Patrol and also police chiefs and sheriffs around the state. I think it’s really important that we have tremendous confidence in our justice system and confidence in our law enforcement officers.
The Republican governor’s response is somewhat similar to what he said last year when asked about bringing in an outside prosecutor to look into police-involved killings. He told St. Louis Public Radio last July “we need to put in place a system that’s going to make sure that we get all of the facts so that people can have confidence in the results that we’re getting. And in some circumstances, [bringing in an independent prosecutor] might be the way for us to go.”
Some high-profile Democrats, including St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, opposed mandating independent prosecutors. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner also panned that idea, but does support having her office, as opposed to the St. Louis Police Department, examine situations where a police officer kills someone.
Proposals to have independent agencies review such deaths have gained prominence amid the near-daily protests over Stockley’s acquittal on Sept. 15. Greitens activated the Missouri National Guard before the verdict, but the St. Louis Police Department has been in charge of monitoring protests.
Greitens said Tuesday he’s “really proud” of the work the National Guard and police officers did during the protests. “I think that the success that we’ve had is part of the great work our law enforcement officers have done,” he said. “We’re very clear from the beginning that people out there to peacefully protest would have their rights protected.”
“We also made very clear that anybody who assaulted a law enforcement officer was going to be arrested,” he added. “We made it very clear that throwing a brick through a window was not free speech.”
Some elected officials and protesters have criticized the St. Louis Police Department for tactics used against protesters. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen may call interim Police Chief Larry O'Toole to testify before a committee about his officers' conduct during demonstrations.
Greitens announces National Guard expansion
Meanwhile, Greitens announced Tuesday that by the end of 2019, new units of the Missouri National Guard will begin operations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Bridgeton, Jefferson City, Farmington and Perryville.
He says the expansion will create nearly 800 new jobs within the National Guard.
"This new investment will have an economic impact of more than $15 million, and give nearly 800 military families a job and a home here in Missouri," Greitens said.
The expansion also includes four new units that have already begun operating in central, southwest, and southeastern Missouri. The current and future new units will perform such tasks as transportation, cyber protection, military police, and engineering support.
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