Biased policing bills heard in Senate committee

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JEFFERSON CITY - A bill prohibiting biased policing was heard for the first time in front of a Missouri Senate committee Tuesday. 

The bill would require law enforcement officers to report certain information, including race and ethnicity, after pedestrian stops. Officers are already required to report this information regarding traffic stops, and the totals are released in the Attorney General's annual report. 

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, sponsored the bill and said it "is not an attack on law enforcement." 

"What we're trying to do is cultivate relationships between law enforcement and the community," Nasheed said. "So, we want to be able to tighten those relationships and we want to put teeth into the already-existing laws on the books when it comes to racial profiling." 

Kevin Ahlbrand, President of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, testified against the bill, but said he is willing to work with Nasheed.

"There are several technical sections that need to be changed. I think some of the language probably came from similar statutes in other states and they don't apply here," Ahlbrand said. "We're very willing to work with Senator Nasheed on fixing that language." 

The bill's summary said law enforcement agencies must review the data its officers report and the Attorney General's report. If the review shows racial and ethnic disparities, then the law enforcement agency must take action. 

"We do have provisions in the law that would allow for law enforcement officers who go against the language in this bill, in terms of not following the rules, they will find themselves in a lawsuit or even punished within the police department," Nasheed said. 

She cited the unrest in Ferguson, racial profiling and the shooting of unarmed individuals as obstacles in the relationship between communities and law enforcement. 

"I think that, when you have a good relationship with community and law enforcement, we tend to see a reduction in crime, because individuals, they don't feel like it's them against the police," Nasheed said. "What we want to do is allow for that relationship to grow because, for far too long, we have seen law enforcement and community fighting for one reason or another."