Elected officials agree more could have been done by the legislature to deal with issues related to law enforcement and Ferguson, but differ in assessing how much it did accomplish.
“This has been a very trying year,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City). “There has been absolutely no positive movement on any piece of legislation that deals with law enforcement reform.”
Ellington said bills to require body cameras and mental evaluations for police and a change in Missouri law regarding officer use of deadly force all failed.
House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), though, said the legislature did respond to the unrest in Ferguson, with bills tightening regulation of municipal courts and changing Missouri’s student transfer law.
“Those are two signature accomplishments of the session. For anybody to say that we didn’t address [the issues in Ferguson] or didn’t look at them, I just flatly disagree,” said Richardson.
Richardson was sworn in after the resignation of John Diehl, Junior, on the final day of the session. Ellington said under the leadership of Diehl, the House Republican majority had blocked bills seeking law enforcement reforms. He said he’s hopeful for better results with Richardson.
“I don’t think that he will put a blockage on these bills like we’ve seen from the last administration,” said Ellington. “The last administration guaranteed that none of these bills would move.”
Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) said the biggest failure of the 2015 session was the failure to pass a bill making the wearing of body cameras by police, mandatory.
“I think many of those individuals who were out there protesting and those that decided to rise up against the establishment, I think they would have felt a victory if we were able to bring about the body cameras,” said Nasheed.
Opponents said if the state would require body cameras on police, it would have had to pay for the cameras and the expensive data storage for using them, or be in violation of the constitution’s prohibition on the state issuing an unfunded mandate to local governments.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) in assessing the session and what lawmakers did related to Ferguson, echoed praise for the municipal courts bill and frustration that the deadly force revision didn’t reach him. He also cited actions taken by his administration and the federal government.
“The summer jobs program, the $5-million department of labor competitive grant we got, the Ferguson Commission is still working, the receiving of Federal Promise Zone Designation, we had a recent youth empowerment summit, and hundreds of thousands of loans to businesses effected there,” said Nixon. “There’s still more work to be done, but we’re working on a lot of levels to move forward.”