Jefferson City – The ACLU of Missouri recognizes the work of the legislature to reform criminal justice through the prohibition of chokeholds. Among the reforms are steps toward the decriminalization of HIV, the creation of a use of force database, and the affirmation of a prosecutor’s ability to reconsider cases when evidence emerges proving innocence. SB 53/60 received final approval in the Missouri House today and now heads to Governor Parson’s desk for final signature.
The legislation takes important steps to ban the use of chokeholds. Work began on this legislation shortly after the murder of George Floyd. Further reforms include the following:
- Reduced felony sentences for knowingly transmitting HIV
- Requirements that juveniles be housed within juvenile facilities, even if they are certified as adults
- Provision of legal counsel for juvenile defendants
- Creation of a use of force database and requirements that officers submit to fingerprinting
- Affirmation of a prosecutor’s ability to make a motion to vacate sentences based on innocence
- Expedited expungement process for both felony and misdemeanor offenses
- Prohibition of sex on duty for law enforcement for any detained individual
- Allowing officers flexibility in executing bench warrants in the case of misdemeanors
However, among these important reforms, the legislature added additional penalties and new offenses. These additions run contrary to the spirit of criminal justice reform and undermine the effort to move Missouri forward. Penalties for doxing may result in chilled speech and will surely be used to target Black and Brown communities. Beyond this, the legislation will remove the residency requirement for Kansas City Police officers, marking a devastating blow to community policing. It is antithetical to true reform to embed in reform measures a new felony charge and several new misdemeanors.
The ACLU of Missouri will continue to strive for holistic, comprehensive change that supports civil liberties. Going forward, these changes will include the duty to intervene, elimination of military equipment in policing, and further efforts to reimagine policing.
Sara Baker, Legislative and Policy Director for the ACLU of Missouri, notes “Many of the reforms included in SB 53/60 are hard fought wins, done after years of advocacy and through vital partnerships around the state. In that regard, this legislation marks a step forward; however, taking away community policing from Kansas City and adding new criminal charges amidst reform is a stark reminder of how regressive Missouri is when it comes to criminal justice reform.”
Mo Del Villar, Legislative Associate for the ACLU of Missouri, adds “Missouri is ripe for change. Everyday Missourians rose up to demand better from our criminal justice system. As a Kansas Citian, I am disappointed to see residency requirements drive this legislation forward. While there is much to applaud in this legislation, there is still hard work ahead and we will continue to fight for reform efforts that make our state safer for all.”