The News Tribune asked the three candidates for Missouri attorney general to respond to readers' questions regarding police reform.
Republican incumbent Attorney General Eric Schmitt is challenged by Democrat Rich Finneran and Libertarian Kevin Babcock.
Schmitt submitted the following response: "Throughout my time in public life, I have been someone who works with people of all political stripes for the betterment of Missourians. There is plenty of common ground on de-escalation training, body cameras and more, and this is one of the reasons why the Defund the Police movement is so destructive and why we need more funding for law enforcement."
Finneran and Babcock's responses are as follows.
Responses may have been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri's Legislative Black Caucus in the 2020 special session proposed Senate Bill 16, which would have created or modified police reform accountability measures, including the following. What is your position on each of the proposed modifications?
Law enforcement officers could not use deadly force to make an arrest unless a person displayed "aggravated aggressive resistance and the officer has an objectively reasonable belief that the person poses an imminent threat to the officer or others."
Rich Finneran: "Our Constitution prohibits police officers from using excessive force when apprehending suspects, and I support our Constitution. As the Supreme Court has long held, officers should only be permitted to use deadly force when they have an objectively reasonable belief that their life or the lives or others are under imminent threat of harm."
Kevin Babcock: "This seems like common sense and is much better than the current 'shoot a lot of unarmed citizens' policy."
Use of a carotid restraint or chokehold in making an arrest would be barred.
Finneran: "I support banning chokeholds by law enforcement. Alternative control methods have been shown to be more effective and less dangerous to the lives of suspects. I would also encourage the use of deescalation tactics in police encounters with suspects to help minimize the risk for officers and suspects alike."
Babcock: " Obviously — why are we even discussing this? Just because someone is being arrested does not mean they are guilty and does not give the police the right to chock them sometimes to death."
No-knock warrants could only be used "if there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect of a violent felony offense will escape or cause bodily harm to others."
Finneran: "In many cases, no-knock warrants increase risks not only to suspects, but to officers as well. I support limiting the use of no-knock warrants to those situations in which an objectively reasonable suspicion exists that the suspect would attempt to flee or cause bodily harm to others. Any such finding should be made by a neutral and detached judge."
Babcock: "Yes. Stop all these unnecessary no-knock warrants that can lead to tragedy against people that are not even the targets."
A private citizen could use physical force in self-defense or defense of property or to detain an aggressor until law enforcement arrives, but not to pursue an aggressor who flees.
Finneran: "Missourians have a right to protect themselves and their families from threats of physical violence. I support the right of private citizens to use physical force in self-defense, defense of property, or defense of others, provided the private citizen's belief of an imminent threat is objectively reasonable. I do not support the right of a private citizen to use physical force against a fleeing person."
Babcock: "Yes, I believe private citizens should not be allowed to hunt down aggressors that are no longer a threat. Since the police have been using deadly force way too much, these proposals will likely do some good and they should all be tried. They will solve all of the problems with police abuse of power, but that does not mean they should not be tried."