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Missouri proposing police ‘Bill of Rights’ to penalize defunding police, protect officers and more

St. Louis police officers. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
March 01, 2021

Last week, Missouri lawmakers began considering legislation referred to by news outlets as the law enforcement “bill of rights,” which would penalize defunding police and create additional protections for police, as well as harsher penalties for protesters.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from St. Charles County, Senate Bill 26 would allow taxpayers to seek injunctive relief if a jurisdiction decides to defund the police by “more than 12 percent relative to the proposed budgets of other departments of the political subdivision over a five-year aggregate amount.”

Individuals who vandalize public monuments or structures on public property could be charged with felony institutional vandalism if the bill becomes law, and blocking a public roadway would also be made illegal, with repeat offenders eligible for a felony charge.  

If an individual is convicted of a dangerous felony where an on-duty police officer, firefighter or emergency medical provider was the victim, he or she would not be eligible for probation or parole.

The bill would also establish a “988 Public Safety Fund” that would provide services to law enforcement to help them handle “stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to a critical incident or emotionally difficult event.”

Law enforcement officers who are under investigation must be notified of their alleged violation, as well as who is conducting the investigation, with complaints against an officer “supported by a written statement outlining the complaint.”

Under the measure, it would not be required that an officer is taken off duty during an investigation unless reasonable circumstances demand it.

Questioning must be conducted by a minimum of two investigators, and officers would be entitled to a “duly authorized representative” or lawyer.

“Law enforcement officers shall not be threatened, harassed, or promised rewards for answering questions, except that a law enforcement officer may be compelled to give protected statements to an investigator under direct control of the agency,” the bill reads.

Under the bill, the entire investigation must be recorded, and a copy must be handed over to the officer if requested. Investigations must be completed within 90 days, and within five days, the subject of the investigation must be provided with “the investigative findings and any recommendations for further action.”

If an officer is cleared, he is entitled to compensation for financial losses as a result of the investigation, the bill states.

“Law enforcement officers shall not be disciplined or dismissed as a result of the assertion of their constitutional rights in any judicial proceeding, unless the officer admits to wrong-doing,” according to the bill.

KTVI reported that state senators stopped debating the bill around 1 a.m. on Tuesday. The measure was subsequently preliminarily approved, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.