Mo. bill aims to change policies on how law enforcement investigates officer-involved deaths

Missourians are filing dozens of initiative petitions for the upcoming 2020 general election,...
Missourians are filing dozens of initiative petitions for the upcoming 2020 general election, but a state senator wants to add upfront costs and raise the standards for each proposal to get on the ballot.(Submitted)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:05 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Missouri lawmaker is proposing a bill that would change the way law enforcement agencies conduct internal investigations.

Representative Shamed Dogan says House Bill 461 would require law enforcement agencies to have written investigation policies for officer-involved deaths and have an independent agency conduct the investigation.

“People have to have faith in those investigations, and that they’re being done fairly and objectively,” Dogan says.

Dogan says there’s a conflict of interest if the department does the investigation itself.

“You can’t do an investigation fairly and properly on an officer who’s employed by your agency where their colleagues and their friends might be the ones conducting the investigation,” Dogan says.

Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole says his department is more than capable of handling those investigations. Sheriff Cole says the prosecutor’s office already works to oversee them.

“If you have a problem in St. Louis, fix your problem in St. Louis,” Sheriff Cole says. “Don’t bring your problem to southwest Missouri and expect us to have to deal with what your problem is in St. Louis. Take care of the problem where the problem lies, not to the rest of the state.”

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says this bill wouldn’t change much for his department. Sheriff Arnott says he already teamed up with the Webster and Lawrence County sheriffs years back to form a sheriff’s critical incident team (SCIT).

“A combination of deputies between all three agencies come together and work on officer-involved shootings, whether it be in our county or Webster or Lawrence County,” Sheriff Arnott says.

Sheriff Arnott says as three counties with elected sheriffs, he thought it was the best way to be transparent within these investigations.

“Even better than the state patrol or SPD where the chief is appointed or the highway patrol is run by the state,” Sheriff Arnott says. “These are three independent office holders that put their people in and they do the investigation altogether.”

If approved, this bill would take effect in August of this year.

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