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Parson on ‘defund the police’ calls: ‘Doing away with officers is not an answer’

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Amid a growing charge across the U.S. to “defund the police,” Gov. Mike Parson said he does not support “doing away with” law enforcement

Calls to “defund the police” have escalated as massive protests against racism and police brutality continue to break out across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death late last month. However, there’s a sundry of definitions of what that would really entail, from stripping all funds and abolishing departments completely to just withholding a set amount of public money. 

“Doing away with police officers, law enforcement officers, is not an answer for anything,” Parson, the former Polk County sheriff, told reporters Tuesday. “You want to change the way we do business? You want things better? We can all do better. I can do better as governor. Law enforcement, never hurts to learn, can always do better.” 

“Law enforcement is going to come when someone calls 911. Nobody else is going to come. Those are the things we need to remember sometimes about what it is when we talk about law enforcement.” 

Over the past week, Parson has met with a variety of community leaders, from members of the clergy to lawmakers, in St. Louis and Kansas City. He said he plans to meet with leaders in Columbia later this week as well. 

He also praised the protesters demonstrating across the state in recent weeks who have been “peacefully pushing for change.” 

“To try to blame all law enforcement for some bad actors in law enforcement is not the answer. To get rid of the bad operators is the answer. To figure out how we get better, we need to have that discussion,” Parson said. “It will take governors sitting down in communities that maybe we don’t always sit down with enough and try to figure out how do we do real changes.” 

“I firmly believe by us working together we can make changes, but we all have to work together to try to do that and try to keep one another safe,” he said. 

Parson said 38 law enforcement officers in Missouri have died in the past 50 weeks. He plans to attend the visitation for retired police captain David Dorn Tuesday evening and the funeral of DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Clark Wednesday. 

Earlier Tuesday, state Rep. Steve Roberts unveiled a few police reforms he said he will be pushing for ahead of the next legislative session, including a ban on chokeholds. 

“Use of force should always have to be at a minimum until you have to use it. A lot of other actions should be taken before you ever [use] force,” Parson said. “I think if there’s something there needs [to be] adjustment on, we need to change the way we’re doing business, I think you put it on the table, we have that discussion and see how we move forward.” 

Cameron Gerber contributed to this report.