Jefferson City, MO – Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish a “bill of rights” for law enforcement officers.
Senate Bill 26, sponsored by Senator Bill Eigel (R – St. Charles County), would also create a “988 Public Safety Fund,” to provide services for law enforcement officers to help them cope with “stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to a critical incident or emotionally difficult event.”
Under the bill, law enforcement officers who are the subjects of an investigation that could result in punitive action would have to be informed about the alleged violation and who would be conducting the investigation.
All complaints against an officer would have to be “supported by a written statement outlining the complaint,” according to the legislation.
The investigation could be conducted only while the officer is on duty, unless there are reasonable circumstances that require questioning to take place while the officer is off duty.
Officers would be entitled to have a lawyer “or duly authorized representative” during any questioning, which would need to be conducted by at least two investigators, according to the bill.
“Law enforcement officers shall not be threatened, harassed, or promised rewards for answering questions, except that a law enforcement officer may be compelled to give protected statements to an investigator under direct control of the agency,” the bill reads.
The investigating entity would be mandated to keep a complete record of the investigation and would be required to hand over a copy of the investigation to the officer upon request.
With limited exceptions, investigations into a complaint against an officer would need to be wrapped up within 90 days, and the officer would need to be provided with “the investigative findings and any recommendations for further action” within five days, according to the bill.
The officer cleared of wrongdoing would be entitled to compensation for any financial loss incurred during the investigation.
The investigative file and all records would only be subject to disclosure in the event of a court order or lawful subpoena.
Officers suspended without pay would be entitled to a “full due process hearing” under the legislation.
The bill would further require law enforcement agencies to “defend and indemnify law enforcement officers against civil claims made against an officer while the officer was acting within his or her duties” unless the officer were to end up being criminally convicted.
“Law enforcement officers shall not be disciplined or dismissed as a result of the assertion of their constitutional rights in any judicial proceeding, unless the officer admits to wrong-doing,” according to the bill.
Senate Bill 26 would also make it illegal for protesters to block a public roadway, and establishes a potential felony charge for repeat offenders.
Under the bill, police would be able to charge those who vandalize a public monument or a structure on public property with a felony count of institutional vandalism.
Taxpayers in jurisdictions that opt to defund police by “more than 12% relative to the proposed budgets of other departments of the political subdivision over a five year aggregate amount” would be able to seek injunctive relief through the court under the measure.
Suspects convicted a dangerous felony where the victim is an on-duty law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical provider would be ineligible for probation or parole if the bill is passed into law.
The state senators finished debating the bill just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday, KTVI reported.
The measure was preliminarily approved, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.