A proposal being introduced Tuesday in the Missouri House would establish a system to track complaints against law enforcement personnel.
The measure would alter the hiring process by initially supplying a police department with an officer’s identification number instead his or her name.
Democrat Brandon Ellington of Kansas City, who’s sponsoring the proposal, says it allows departments to check for complaints without breaking discrimination rules.
“I put 1-2-3 in” said Ellington. “I see that 1-2-3 has a thousand complaints. I’m not going any farther. Now if I choose to go any farther, then obviously I’ll have access to other applications, etc. But if I put in 1-2-3 and he has a thousand complaints, I don’t know 1-2-3 is Mr. Smith. I just know 1-2-3 is somebody I’m not going to go any farther with.”
Ellington thinks there’ll be a warmer reception Tuesday to his proposal, which failed to receive a hearing last year when he originally introduced it.
He says officer complaints can be a serious issue, noting several years ago a Kansas City officer had 65 non validated complaints against him. Under the proposal, those complaints would be retained and forwarded through the identification numbering system to any agency looking to make a hire.
All law enforcement personnel would be assigned a number through which complaints against them could be accessed. Their names wouldn’t be revealed unless the police agency or department decided to move forward with the hiring process.
Ellington says police agencies are prohibited from discussing an officer’s performance because of discrimination rules.
“It’s an issue that if you’re transferring over to my department, I can’t just pick up the phone and call the captain and say ‘What’s going on with Officer Tom? What type of person is he? Is Officer Tom a good officer? I’m restricted from that.”
According to Ellington, his measure has not received negative push-back from the Fraternal Order of Police. He’s expecting the organization, which is the union representing officers, to listen to his presentation Tuesday without taking a stance for or against the proposal.
He also says Republican Representative Galen Higdon of St. Joseph, who’s a retired deputy, has spoken highly of it.
“He’s not only said that this a huge issue when it comes to law enforcement receiving agencies being able to weed out bad officers, but he thinks it’s something that’s common sense because I don’t associate the name, which again, takes away any issues when it comes to discrimination.”
The identification numbering system would be managed by the Missouri Department of Public Safety and would apply to all law enforcement agencies, including police and the state Highway Patrol. The state treasurer’s office would oversee any expenses related to it.
The House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee will a hold the hearing on the proposal at 8 a.m. Tuesday.