House bill would change rules for police-involved deaths

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new bill would change the way law enforcement agencies investigate officer-involved death cases.

"We need to have transparency and unbiased investigations whenever there is a loss of life at the hands of a law enforcement officer," said Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin.

The bill, introduced by Dogan, would require all law enforcement agencies throughout the state have a third-party investigate when an officer is involved in a death case.

"We need to let someone else with an objective perspective look at the case," Dogan said.

Under current law, law enforcement agencies are not required to have a third party be involved in the investigation. This means that any agency in the state can lead an investigation, even if it involves one of its own officers.

Some local officers implement a third-party watchdog for these types of cases.

"We want to make sure that it's an unbiased investigation and, any time that we have a case that involves someone that's been killed or someone that has been injured, we call in the highway patrol," said Cpt. John Wheeler with the Cole County Sheriff's Department. "They do the investigation for us."

However,Wheeler said there are other factors to consider.

"It really depends upon the size of the agency," Wheeler said. "Missouri State Highway Patrol has the resources to find people that weren't involved, but for a smaller agency, like Cole County, it's not as easy."

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness committee Monday.