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Senate passes law enforcement, protest bill despite community concerns from Dems

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After perfecting it during a lengthy debate earlier this week, the Missouri Senate voted to pass a controversial public safety bill Thursday morning. 

“This is the bill that we perfected earlier this week,” sponsor Sen. Bill Eigel said. “I want to thank the body for its patience — I know we were here for a very late night.”

Eigel’s SB 26 was perfected on the House floor Tuesday morning after an overnight debate that spanned eight hours and yielded a revised version of the bill. 

Several senators on the other side of the aisle spoke against the bill Thursday. Sens. Karla May and Barbara Washington discussed the trepidation clergy in their districts felt toward the bill, saying they opposed the restrictions against protests. 

Sen. Steve Roberts read a letter from St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, who also opposed parts of the bill, including the provision requiring law enforcement officers to be informed of misconduct investigations. Roberts said he wanted the chamber to know that not all law enforcement officers supported the bill.

“Citizens of this state would expect law enforcement officers serving them to be held to the standard of moral and ethical conduct no lower than that to which they are held,” Hayden said. “It is not always practical to give officers notice of an alleged violation because there are times in which the alleged misconduct is ongoing. In these instances, notices would potentially jeopardize the investigation, which in some cases has a criminal nexus.”

The bill would make a plethora of changes to law enforcement and public safety law, including prohibiting someone convicted of a dangerous felony that endangered the life of a first responder who is in the line of duty from probation eligibility. It also creates the offense of unlawful traffic interference if someone impedes or blocks traffic on a public street, highway, or interstate highway. 

The bill also adds to the offense of institutional vandalism should someone deface a public monument or structure on public property. 

Additionally, Eigel’s legislation establishes a “bill of rights” for law enforcement officers, adding protections for those who are under investigation or subjected to questioning that could result in disciplinary action or dismissal. Another provision would add protections for those who bring a complaint against a law enforcement officer, including for members of the same agency or department. It mandates any identifying information shall be held in camera by the investigating agency.