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Missouri Senate Just Passed a First Step in Police Reform as Police Violence Continues.

March 31, 2021

This week, the Missouri Senate passed SB 53, a bill to prevent police misconduct and violence by requiring transparency surrounding officer-involved deaths. This comes amid continued police violence throughout the state. Reports show there have been at least four people shot by police this month, two fatally. 

While SB 53 is a good first step by the Missouri legislature toward increased police transparency and accountability, the House Crime Prevention Committee simultaneously advanced SB 26, a bill to discourage investigations into police misconduct by imposing arbitrary restrictions on misconduct investigations, undermining transparency and police accountability and even subjecting local governments and law enforcement agencies to the threat of lawsuits and associated fees costs.

“Nobody should die at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve them. The Missouri Senate took a good first step toward preventing police violence this week and we urge them to remain focused on the issue at hand — our communities are demanding and deserve transparency and accountability from the police,” said Leslie Washington, volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action and Survivor Fellow with Everytown’s Survivor Network. “Our hearts are with those who have been affected, wounded, and traumatized by police violence and we’ll continue to fight for overdue changes to policing in our state.”

Over the weekend, a St. Charles County police officer shot and killed a man early Friday who had reportedly pointed a weapon at the officer in a school parking lot. Last week, the Kansas City Star reported a police shooting inside a Kansas City gas station where a Black man was shot and killed by a police officer. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the man had shot an officer in the leg during the incident. Additionally, there were two separate police shootings on March 11, one a 32-year-old woman and one a 41-year-old man, both of whom survived.

Police violence is a form of gun violence, and it is essential that law enforcement agencies adopt meaningful use of force policies, which encourage de-escalation, utilize early intervention systems, and ensure that officers who act in a manner that is criminally negligent can be held accountable.  

Research suggests that implementing specific use-of-force policies can save lives. One 2016 study of 91 large police departments found adoption of use-of-force reform policies—exhaustion of other means prior to shooting, bans on chokeholds and strangleholds, use-of-force continuum, de-escalation, duty to intervene, restrictions on shootings at moving vehicles, and warning before shooting—was associated with fewer people killed by police. 

Black Americans are shot and killed by police at three times the rate of white Americans, and data from Mapping Police Violence shows that most people killed by police are killed with guns. In an average year, 28 people are shot and killed by police in Missouri. 

More information on gun violence in Missouri is available here.

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