The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Freshman Rep. Ron Copeland enjoyed a long career enforcing the law in his community. Now, he’s taking on his new role as a lawmaker with his district and the state at the forefront of his mind.
Copeland — who retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol as a master sergeant after 28 years and served as a military police officer in the Missouri National Guard — said he was initially hesitant to run for office but was swayed after lengthy conversations with his family.
“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made because I was content where I was at,” Copeland told The Missouri Times. “My wife and I sat and talked and prayed about it all summer, and she said she was ready for me to go for it. As a trooper working in the community, I felt maybe I could come up here and help folks in a different role.”
After winning a crowded Republican primary by a wide margin and claiming his seat without Democratic opposition, Copeland said he was heartened by other legislators’ commitment to their beliefs on both sides of the aisle.
“I think the patrol is good about being unbiased so I didn’t really get involved in politics before this,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of discord between Republicans and Democrats here. We all have our beliefs, and I respect their beliefs; I’m the kind of guy looking for where we can find medium ground and get something done instead of arguing about it and heading back to the district without helping the state.”
Like many legislators this year, Copeland set his sights on police reform, hoping to enact change from the perspective of law enforcement. His HB 839 would require police officers to submit to being fingerprinted for the state and federal Rap Back program for background checks and disciplinary reports. Copeland said the bill would keep law enforcement accountable without making them feel like a target.
“There’s a lot of police reform out there, and being a trooper, you sometimes see these reforms working against the police,” he said. “As an officer, you don’t want a bad policeman working next to you, and this bill would be good reform for that. It’s a way to keep us accountable.”
Another piece of legislation would create the Violent Crime Commission tasked with establishing a grant program for local law enforcement agencies to help them solve, investigate, and prevent violent crimes. He said other priorities of his included education, landowner rights, the timber industry, and registration issues.
In all, Copeland said he hoped to improve his district and state alongside other members of the freshman class.
“My biggest goal is to leave my district and the state better than what it was,” Copeland said. “I think that should be everyone’s goal when they come up here, and I see that in a lot of the other freshmen this year.”