A House Republican is again proposing that an outside agency investigate deaths involving law enforcement, but some in his own party are skeptical of the bill.
Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) said having officer-involved deaths be investigated by an agency outside of that employing the officers involved would improve public trust.
“When the most serious consequence that can possibly happen – the loss of someone’s life – happens in police custody, I think people ought to be confident that law enforcement is going to conduct a fair and impartial investigation,” said Dogan, “and I think that just inherently there is a conflict when you’re investigating one of your own.”
Dogan said a similar law helped restore public trust in Wisconsin when an officer-involved death resulted in no charges against the officer.
“At the same time that the prosecutor announced they weren’t bringing charges they also released this investigation saying, ‘Okay, here’s why.’ 25 pages of detailed information,” said Dogan.
Last year the proposal was voted out of a committee 11-1, but not all in Dogan’s own party are receptive. Representative Ken Wilson (R-Smithville), a former police chief, said it isn’t needed.
“We already do this. I’m not sure what we gain by this,” said Wilson.
The Missouri Fraternal of Police opposes the bill. President Kevin Ahlbrand says agencies do a good job of investigating themselves, or handing it off when they have to.
“I think we do a good job of investigating our own and I think the system works now,” said Ahlbrand.
Dogan cited the fatal shooting by a Ferguson Police officer of Michael Brown, Junior in August, 2014, and the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson while in State Highway Patrol Custody on the Lake of the Ozarks in May of 2014 as two incidents in which the public would have had more confidence in law enforcement if outside agencies had investigated.
Others in the hearing noted the St. Louis County Police investigated the Michael Brown, Junior, shooting, and that a charge was eventually filed against trooper Anthony Piercy related to the death of Brandon Ellingson.
A former trooper, Randy Henry, testified that despite Piercy being charged the Patrol and others engaged in a coverup after Ellingson’s death.
A story on last year’s bill: Wisconsin father testifies on Missouri police use of deadly force