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Document: Missouri Senate Bill 60

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A bill aimed at modifying provisions of state law relating to law enforcement agency accountability was heard Monday by a Missouri Senate committee.

State Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, said his Senate Bill 60 is police reform legislation that would address no-knock warrants and use of force, among other provisions.

The bill was heard in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence. The committee took no action on the bill Monday.

"One of the most important things we can do to make our streets safer is improve relationships between police and the community," Williams said Monday. "Men and women in law enforcement risk their lives every day, and they need to know we are doing everything we can protect the integrity of what I consider an honorable profession."

Williams said this is not an "us versus them" situation, as the bill has bipartisan support in Missouri.

"My bill specifically prohibits the use of chokeholds as a form of restraint, and it requires hiring departments to check disciplinary records with the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission before extending an offer of employment."

Some of the major portions of the Senate Bill 60 include:

Use of force by a private citizen — A person who is justified under the law to use physical force in self-defense or defense of property would also be justified in detaining an aggressor until the arrival of law enforcement.

Use of force by a law enforcement officer — Under current law, if a person flees or forcibly resists, an officer may use all necessary means to effect an arrest. SB 60 would make it so an officer would not be permitted to use deadly force to effect an arrest unless a person displays aggressive resistance and the officer has reasonable belief the person poses an imminent threat to the officer or others.

Use of chemical agents — A law enforcement agency would be allowed to use chemical agents only after a person had attempted to cause serious physical injury to another person, and would have to provide a warning before deploying a chemical agent.

Disciplinary actions of peace officers — The director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety would have the power to discipline any peace officer licensee who applies a chokehold in the course of his or her duties. Additionally, the director would produce an annual public report including a list of officers whose licenses are on probation, suspended or revoked.

No one testified in opposition to the bill Monday. Many who testified represented statewide law enforcement groups.

"We all want good policemen and good police departments, and we truly believe this is the first step in trying to get that done across the state," said Arnold Police Chief Bob Shockey, who is executive director of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association.

"We are proud to have worked on this project for the last six to nine months," said Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police. "As the senator said, there's a lot more things that we agree on, and if you sit down at the table there's a lot you can get done."

The Missouri NAACP also supports the bill.

"There is no reason for someone's airway to be restricted during an arrest. There are many other strategies that can be used," spokesperson Sharon Jones said. "We appreciate law enforcement working with us."

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