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Government, Politics & Issues

Wide-Ranging Missouri Police And Public Safety Bill Heads To Gov. Parson

St. Louis Metropolitan Police establish a perimeter around a demonstration at the intersection of Tucker Boulevard and Market Street in downtown, St. Louis on April 20, 2021.
File photo / David Kovaluk
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St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri legislature passed a wide-ranging bill on police reform and public safety. It now heads to Gov. Mike Parson's desk.

JEFFERSON CITY — Police are barred from using chokeholds, 17-year-olds are classified as juveniles, and jails and prisons are required to provide women in custody with tampons and pads under an expansive compromise bill the Missouri House passed on a 140-4 vote Thursday.

The measure received bipartisan support this week after numerous changes, most recently the removal of a provision that would have increased penalties for lying to legislative committees. Gov. Mike Parson said he would veto the bill if it included that provision.

The resulting bill was not perfect, said Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, but is still an important step forward.

“This is where we should be. These are the moments that we should be proud of. These are the moments that we can actually say we did our jobs,” Bosley said.

The bill also improves background checks on police officers, answering a long-standing criticism that some police officers who are forced out of a job can be easily hired by another department in the state. And it includes the creation of a use-of-force database.

“We’re talking about giving hope and really rebuilding relationships between law enforcement and individuals that look like me and communities that I live in,” said Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, who is Black.

Objections to the bill largely came from lawmakers who took issue with the portion that increased pay for most county sheriffs around the state. They called that an unfunded mandate to counties.

The bill was also criticized by the state NAACP. The organization said it didn’t do enough to protect minorities. The NAACP also opposed lifting the Kansas City Police residency requirement.

“If any police officer or prospective officer feels that Kansas City is a good enough city to earn a living, this city should be good enough to require the residency of all city employees,” said the Rev. Rodney Williams, president of the Kansas City NAACP.

The bill will allow prosecutors to file a motion to vacate a guilty verdict against someone if they have found evidence that exonerates them. That portion has the support of St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell.

“Until now, a prosecutor in Missouri had no way to present evidence of innocence to a court. In some cases, that led to grievous injustices,” Bell said. “This law is a big step in the right direction.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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