this Jan. 7, 2015, file photo, people protesting the
fatal shooting of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael
Brown by a white police officer wave a banner from
the Senate gallery during the opening of the
Missouri legislature in Jefferson City, Mo. Police
killings of unarmed residents in Missouri, New York
and elsewhere have prompted an array of proposals
from newly-convening state legislatures seeking to
place greater scrutiny on the interactions between
law officers and the public.
CITY, Mo. — With legislatures convening across the
country, lawmakers are moving quickly to respond to one of
the biggest stories of the past year, the police killings
of unarmed residents in Missouri, New York and elsewhere.
bills have been filed that would place more scrutiny on
interactions between law officers and the public, and that
would aim to address concerns about perceived racial
injustice, police tactics and civil unrest.
Missouri, lawmakers have filed more than 40 bills stemming
from the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black
18-year-old, by a white officer in the St. Louis suburb of
Ferguson. The debate over police conduct — and officer
safety — also is expected to loom large in New York,
following the police chokehold death of Eric Garner and
the subsequent shootings of two officers.
in at least a dozen states are proposing to mandate or
expand the use of cameras attached to officers' uniforms
in an attempt to avoid disputes about exactly what
happened during police conflicts with citizens. Other
proposals would require more training for officers,
tighter limits on using deadly force and the appointment
of special investigators when police kill people.
some have bipartisan support, many of the proposals to
curtail police powers are coming from Democratic
lawmakers. Some Republicans have countered with proposals
providing better police equipment and imposing stricter
penalties for threatening officers.
want to address some of the underlying building blocks
that have caused this," said Missouri House Speaker
John Diehl, a Republican from suburban St. Louis. But he
added: "We're not going into it with the assumption
that we have to fix what the men and women on the front
lines are doing. We're not going to take away tools that
they need to protect themselves."
debate in Missouri is expected to be intense.
opening day of the 2015 session, protesters laid down in
the Capitol Rotunda and then temporarily shut down the
Senate proceedings, chanting phrases such as "No
justice, no peace."
clear that our country needs to toughen up on some of its
policies," said one of the protest leaders, Waylon
McDonald of St. Louis.
proposing to require officer cameras argue they would
protect both officers and the people with whom they
interact. There was no video evidence of the August
confrontation between Brown and former Ferguson police
officer Darren Wilson. Video shot by a bystander helped
shape public opinion in the New York incident.
Democratic proposal to fund the cameras with a tax on
handgun and ammunition sales is unlikely to pass in
Missouri's Republican-led Legislature, which recently cut
taxes and strengthened gun rights.
Gary Herbert, a Republican, said he supports a $500,000
request to buy cameras for all state troopers. The
proposal needs legislative approval.
Island, the push to require police cameras is being led by
Democratic Rep. Joseph S. Almeida, a former patrolman who
co-founded the state's minority police association. But
privacy concerns are being raised by fellow Democratic
Rep. Raymond Hull, who is a police sergeant in Providence.
not so much that I'm looking to protect the cops, I'm more
interested in protecting the privacy of people when I'm in
their home," Hull said.
pending in the New Jersey Assembly would create a task
force on officer cameras and require local government
approval before police agencies can get surplus military
equipment. Police in Missouri were widely criticized for
using armored vehicles to disperse people protesting
York, Republicans have proposed equipping officers'
vehicles with bullet-proof glass, while Democrats have
suggested various proposals, including promoting greater
diversity in police ranks and the appointment of a special
prosecutor to investigate killings by police.
review boards, which hear complaints about police conduct,
date to the 1960s in some cities but are now being more
widely pursued, including as a constitutional amendment in
enacted a law last year requiring an outside investigation
into officer-involved deaths. Similar proposals are
emerging elsewhere, including in Alabama and California,
where thousands took to the streets to protest law
enforcement killings of unarmed black men.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat, wants to create
independent panels under the oversight of the state
Department of Justice to investigate officer-involved
shootings. He said local prosecutors are often perceived
as too close to law enforcement agencies to investigate
the current process fundamentally flawed and morally
bankrupt? I don't know. Could there be a better process
that brings more public trust and independence?
Absolutely," McCarty said.