Many state legislatures will get under way this week, and Missouri is no exception. On Wednesday, new members will be sworn in and the business of the good people of the Show Me State will get underway. Before any of that business is brought to the floor of either the State House or Senate, hundreds of pre-filed bills are already on record. They range from agricultural to energy and transportation, to anything else in between. But a few have gotten more attention than most. They have come about from last summer’s fatal shooting in Ferguson.
State Senators Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Jamillah Nasheed, both of whom have districts that are in parts of Ferguson, and have also made headlines of their own, not just last summer, but even recently, with behavior not quite becoming a sitting State Senator, have both filed bills that would tie the hands of police officers, and put constraints on a job that is becoming increasingly harder to do, largely because of self-appointed “experts”.
Senate Bill 21, proposed by Chappelle-Nadal states, “This act provides that a law enforcement officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes the suspect poses a clear danger to the officer or any other person.” The bill also states that if a law enforcement officer does use deadly force or shoots or injures someone, the Attorney General must appoint a special prosecutor. The obvious question here might be, who gets to determine if the officer was acting reasonably? State Senators? Let’s hope not. Another part of this bill states that when the Governor declares a state of emergency due to civil unrest, he must contact a third-party human rights organization to “monitor” the response of law enforcement. You mean like the U.N.? He must also assign an appropriate number of counselors and others to provide mental health services to those affected by the civil unrest. Yet another question, who is paying for all of this? Oh yeah, when it’s other people’s money, who cares?
Some highlights from Senator Nasheed’s bill include a similar provision about police officers using deadly force as a last resort. A stipulation on whether or not a suspect is 20 feet or farther away from the officer must mean that a tape measure will now be standard issue equipment for police. Another includes two independent investigators on any police-involved shooting. These investigators must provide a complete report of the incident to the Attorney General. Yet another layer of government red tape to hog-tie police. Incidentally, hog tying and verbally abusing protesters is also prohibited in Senator Chappelle-Nadal’s bill.
A local law enforcement official cites the presence of police monitors in civil unrest situations as, “just plain stupid.” He said they would be just one more person to get in the way. He did agree with the appointing of a special prosecutor in such cases, and said that the state should have jurisdiction in all shooting cases. He cited Senator Nasheed’s bill, SB42 as, “not making any sense,” and also said that all law enforcement agencies already have written policies on investigating officer-involved shootings. Perhaps Senator Nasheed should do a little more homework, or maybe just have a conversation with someone who actually does the job? A big question on SB43, proposed by Senator Nasheed was why the Highway Patrol is exempt from these provisions?
Those who are watchers of the State Legislature doubt that either of these bills will get out of committee, especially with a Republican controlled House and Senate. But will sympathetic Democrats try to bring elements of these unrealistic bills to the House and Senate floor in other bills?
There is no logic at the heart of these bills, just emotion. Unfortunately, there are always liberal Democrats close by to fan the flames of that emotion, and hand out a few tissues.