Dear Governor Parson,
We, the undersigned, write to express our deep concern regarding your call for a special session on crime. Without a doubt, we support a Missouri where every individual can thrive and live their lives to the fullest. However, the call placed for a special session ignores the root causes of violence and perpetuates further escalation of interactions between law enforcement and the people they serve. This is why we must urge you to alter your call and focus on police reform. A foundation of trust is a prerequisite for addressing violence.
Now is not the time to increase the problems Missouri has with incarceration when we know that the ultimate way to address crime lies in innovation, in solutions that prioritize community resources and mental health services. We cannot seek to cure violence without addressing police brutality. Across the country in places like Louisville, Kentucky, and the state of Iowa, we have seen responsive governing bodies react to the murder of George Floyd with a commitment to changing course. Missouri is doubling down on policies that ignore this moment of transformation and ultimately place Missouri in an outlier position with no attempt to change course.
Police reform is not a topic that can wait. Indeed it has waited far too long. We have 20 years of data showing Missouri’s persistent problems with racial profiling. We have too many Missouri stories. The deaths of Mike Brown, Cameron Lamb, Tory Sanders, and the assault of Brianna Hill among many. We must change to ensure that their circumstances and the violence done to them are never repeated. We have the Ferguson Commission report and bipartisan examples of change that chart a path forward for Missouri. There is no justification to wait.
Missouri should halt no-knock warrants like Louisville. It should ban chokeholds like Iowa, require independent investigations of officer-involved shootings like Utah, and establish a duty to intervene when one officer sees another go too far as recommend by the U.S. Department of Justice. We should demilitarize the police like Montana. We should make it impossible for an officer fired for misconduct in another state to take up a post in Missouri, and we should spend our money in line with the outcomes we seek. Being a police officer should not mean that you are the community’s sole caretaker. We owe it to all of us to step in and get the right person on the job — mental health workers for people in crisis and substance abuse experts for those struggling with addiction — to start. We can do so much better.
Your intention is to make Missouri safe. We share that. However, before we jump into policy prerogatives that simply bandage our fractured criminal justice system, let us build a foundation where law enforcement is held to the highest standards. Together, we have a real opportunity to create a Missouri that holds the welfare of the people as its supreme law.
American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri
Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Midwest Innocence Project
Action St. Louis
Color Of Change
LaTrisha Gandy (Metropolitan Congregations United)
State Representative Steven Roberts
Marie Franklin United Congregations of Metro East
Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), Executive Director
Missouri Faith Voices
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
Jamala Rogers, Organization for Black Struggle
Justice Gatson, Reale Justice Network
Daniel Gould Missouri Faith Voices