Williams sent a letter to the governor Friday requesting attention be paid to the state’s law enforcement agencies and their tactics following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His death sparked massive protests and calls for reform nationwide, including in Missouri.
“In light of recent events in our country, I am thinking more about policing and law enforcement policies,” Williams said. “As I reflect on our state and my own experiences with law enforcement, I believe reforms must be enacted regarding law enforcement and the tactics they employ. In my opinion, it is imperative that you call a special session to address policing, and more specifically, use-of-force tactics. These issues are extremely important to me personally, especially since I am the only Black male senator to serve the state of Missouri in the past 20 years.”
“During the upcoming legislative session, I intend to file legislation regarding these very same issues; however, I believe our state cannot wait a day longer when it comes to reforming our law enforcement agencies,” Williams said.
Williams proposed possible solutions to increase police accountability and reform the state’s law enforcement system, including requiring an occupational license for police and a ban on chokeholds.
Williams said the proposed changes would be an effort to improve the relationship between police and Missourians rather than an attempt to defund the police.
“In order to move our state forward, I believe it is critical that we do everything we can to restore the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, especially Black communities throughout our state,” he said.
State Rep. Steve Roberts last month proposed similar police reform measures, including a ban on chokeholds, increased accountability measures, and a requirement for officers to report and intervene in uses of excessive force. Roberts also joined House Minority Leader Crystal Quade on a letter to the governor requesting an overhaul of police training requirements.
Republican state Rep. Ron Hicks also made clear his intentions to pre-file a bill that would increase police accountability by creating a charge of “abuse of force” for police officers found guilty of using “grossly unreasonable force which causes physical injury to another person.”
“As leaders, it is up to us to work together to enact positive change throughout our state, and I am asking for your help to achieve this goal,” Williams said.
A spokeswoman for Parson could not immediately be reached for comment.