JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Day two of Missouri’s special legislative session on violent crime is complete after senators met Tuesday afternoon to discuss a bill with all six provisions the governor wants passed during the session.
Twenty people stepped up to the microphone during a Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee hearing to testify against and for Senate Bill 1.
The bill was introduced Monday during opening day for the special session. It’s sponsored by Republican Sen. Doug Libla, who is in committee chairman.
SB 1 includes legislation which would end residency requirements for St. Louis City police officers and other public safety personnel, certify certain juveniles as adults, increase the offense of endangering a child, create a witness protection program, witness settlement admissibility, and increase the penalty for illegally transferring a firearm.
“We have individuals that are willing to come forward if there was that protection,” said Shannon Cooper. “You can imagine the frustration that our officers feel when they know that there’s somebody that could help them make that case, but they are basically scared for their lives to come forward.”
Senators on the committee listened to 17 people testify in favor of SB 1, including St. Louis City Police Chief John Hayden and the St. Louis Director of Public Safety Judge Jimmie Edwards.
“The number one barrier to recruitment of more officers is the city’s residential rule,” Hayden said. “No other police department in this region has a residency rule.”
“I have had the opportunity to speak to many youngsters and young adults with respect to becoming a police officer in the City of St. Louis, however it is that they cannot afford to live in the City of St. Louis,” Edwards said. “Kansas City is over 400 square miles to recruit in. The City of St. Louis is but 60 square miles. We just don’t have the pull of folk that we can recruit from.”
Those that spoke in opposition of the bill don’t want to see children be put in prison for life for armed criminal action.
“We have so much discretion as a juvenile prosecutor and so much discretion in the adult system with state prosecutors that it could realistically lead to incarceration for an extended period of time mandatory incarceration of children,” Springfield attorney Adam Woody said. “We have to remember our criminal action is mandatory prison in the adult system.”
Sen. Brian Williams (D-St. Louis) introduced a bill on police reform Monday but Parson said this session is only about violent crime. Edwards said during the hearing he agrees with Williams that the state needs police reform.
“And I think that if we could have some uniformity in policing, not only locally but statewide, it will certainly make law enforcement in the state of Missouri better,” Edwards said.
For now, lawmakers are not expected to return to the Capitol until after the primary election next week. The committee is planning to meet next Wednesday to discuss more and possibly vote on SB 1.