“Highlights with Hegeman” for the Week of June 14: Protecting Our Law Enforcement Officers

During this year’s regular legislative session, a great deal of time was spent on public safety issues facing our state. The Legislature was able to make some strides in this regard, especially in terms of giving law enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively.

Among the measures that relate to this matter was Senate Bill 26, a wide-ranging proposal that creates provisions relating to public safety. This legislation includes what is known as the “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights,” which seeks to protect our men and women in blue if they would happen to be accused of wrongdoing.

If SB 26 were to become law, it would give police officers much broader due process rights. Under this legislation, the law enforcement officer in question would be informed of the existence and nature of the alleged violation and who would be conducting the investigation. The officer would be entitled to have an attorney present during questioning. Senate Bill 26 also requires the officer under question to be informed, within five days of the conclusion of the investigation, of the matter’s findings and any recommendations for further action. A complete record of the administrative investigation would be kept by the law enforcement agency. Also, all records would be confidential and not subject to disclosure under Sunshine Law, except by lawful subpoena or court order.

Additionally, SB 26 prohibits dangerous felons who harm police officers and first responders from being eligible for probation. In response to calls throughout our country to defund police departments, SB 26 includes language protecting police budgets from being drastically cut, when compared to other public agencies.

Law enforcement does so much for us. They keep our communities safe, often for very little pay, compared to the dangers they face. To me, it makes sense to give them this extra protection if they were to be accused of mishandling their authority. Senate Bill 26 goes a long way toward evening the playing field for them, in my opinion, and I hope this measure is signed into law very soon.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.