FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOX) – A lot of legislative changes were promised in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting a year ago this coming weekend, but a quick glance shows not much has been accomplished at either the state or federal level.
The Wall Street Journal reports that other than a few successful bills on body cameras for police officers, most other measures have failed or stalled amid opposition from police unions and prosecutors.
That includes bills seeking to make investigations into police killings more independent, and others to combat racial profiling.
But U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt points out that not everything needs to be solved by Congress.
“Guidelines aren’t always going to be federal, shouldn’t be federal, everything is not a federal problem,” he said during a recent call with reporters. “The best answers don’t always come from Washington D.C.”
Senate Bill 5
Blunt points to Gov. Jay Nixon’s signing into law last month of Senate Bill 5 to reform the much-publicized abuses in the St. Louis municipal court system as something accomplished at the state, not federal, level.
Senate Bill 5 arose directly as a result of the Ferguson unrest and will lower the percentage of revenue cities and counties collect from minor traffic violations.
Local governments that refuse to comply will face mandatory sanctions, including have pending municipal cases reassigned, forfeiting all fines and court costs for distribution to schools – even municipal dis-incorporation.
But despite the dearth of successful legislation in Washington, legislators are still trying.
Congressman Lacy Clay helped introduce the Clay-Cohen Bill in May.
“It would require an independent prosecutor to investigate all cases where police use deadly force,” Clay said. “That certainly would have helped in Ferguson.”
The legislation would also call for sensitivity training for all police officers to better interact with minorities, new immigrants and the mentally ill.
“Police need to learn how to de-escalate volatile situations before they escalate into violent confrontations, and that might have helped in Ferguson, too,” Clay said. “These recommendations come from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”
Protecting Communities And Police Act
A fellow Democrat, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, is still working to get Ferguson-related legislation passed, as well.
She is proud that her police body camera legislation has the support of both the National Police Tactical Officers Association and the NAACP.
“And that’s what we’re looking for after Ferguson,” McCaskill said, “an ability to bring together folks for real solutions. I think one of the problems of Ferguson is there almost became a narrative that was about ‘us vs. them.'”
McCaskill’s Protecting Communities And Police Act would better shield both police officers and the communities they serve by reforming federal programs that send equipment and funding to local police departments.
“The truth is that there’s a lot of police officers that want to get back to a community policing model,” McCaskill said. “While they need to be protected, and our bill certainly recognizes that, they also want to make sure that citizens are being treated with respect.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only four states – California, Connecticut, Nevada and South Carolina – passed legislation requiring body cameras for police officers in the past year, with several others approving measures related to funding and researching cameras.
Lawmakers in Missouri proposed more than 50 police reform bills, and according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, only one passed – the aforementioned municipal court reform measure, Senate Bill 5.
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