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Nixon signs use of force update, 6 other bills into law

Emanuele Berry|St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation updating Missouri law regarding when police can use deadly force has been signed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

House Bill 2332 brings Missouri's use of force statute in line with the U.S. Supreme Court. In Tennessee v. Garner in 1985, the nation's highest court ruled that a law enforcement officer cannot use deadly force against a fleeing suspect unless he or she has "probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

Before Wednesday's action Missouri law did not say that the officer has to believe the fleeing suspect is dangerous.

"I thank the General Assembly for making this long-overdue change," Nixon said in a written statement. "These are life-and-death decisions, and it is vital that Missouri statutes governing the use of force are clear and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent."

Calls for the change began after Michael Brown was shot to death by a Ferguson police officer nearly two years ago.

Nixon also signed Senate Bill 590. It brings Missouri in line with another Supreme Court ruling, Miller v. Alabama, that bars juveniles convicted of first degree murder from being sentenced to life without parole.

Other bills signed by Nixon on Wednesday:

  • House Bill 1765 – changes provisions related to judicial proceedings, including updating and streamlining Missouri's receivership laws
  • Senate Bill 578 – allows certain circuits to appoint an additional court marshal, authorizes an additional judge in certain circuits, excludes firearms from bankruptcy, and establishes the Missouri Commercial Receivership Act
  • Senate Bill 588 – Modifies provisions relating to petitions for the expungement of criminal records
  • Senate Bill 735 – Modifies laws relating to the Court Automation Fund, the Basic Legal Services Fund, and public defenders
  • Senate Bill 765prohibits any political subdivision or law enforcement agency from having a policy that requires or encourages officers to issue a certain number of traffic citations

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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