Bipartisan legislation establishing a critical incident stress management program within the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) is heading to a Missouri legislative conference committee, after receiving House approval on Wednesday afternoon.
State Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Defiance), the bill sponsor, tells colleagues that police officers need help in dealing with stress and psychological trauma from critical incidents. He describes a deadly crash a few years ago near the Lake of the Ozarks.
“And I had come across a scene, where the (Missouri) Highway Patrol officers’ faces were nothing but lights out. And it was a scene where children had been killed in a car accident, along with their mother. And the things that those officers had to see are things that I hope none of you (House members) ever have to see,” Hicks says.
Senate bill 57 requires that officers meet with a program service provider once every three to five years for a mental health check-in. Hicks’ bill creates a public safety fund to provide services for police officers in coping with stress and trauma resulting from critical and deadly incidents.
“Something they can come to and they can use to get some of the help they needed, or maybe they didn’t even know they needed it,” says Hicks.
Because the Missouri House added an amendment Wednesday for a law enforcement officers’ bill of rights, the bill now heads to a conference committee. While both chambers have approved the overall bill, it’s not the same version.
While the debate on the law enforcement officers’ bill of rights amendment from State Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) was heated at the start, things cooled down during the discussion. State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-St. Louis), the House Democratic Caucus vice-chair, supports Schroer’s amendment.
“To just give support in some way if we could to our law enforcement officers who do such a good job, the good ones, who do such a good job of serving us and serving our communities and just making sure that they feel as if they have backup,” Representative Bosley tells the House.
The Schroer amendment passed on a voice vote. Supporters say some red and some blue states have approved this. Opponents, such as State Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis) say St. Louis’ Police Chief opposes the amendment.
The overall Hicks bill received House approval on a 117-0 vote. 28 House members voted present.
State Sen. Karla May (D-St. Louis) is carrying the Senate version of Hicks’ bill. Lawmakers have until 6 p.m. on Friday to try to get the same bill language through both chambers.
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