New bill would match law enforcement's current deadly force procedure

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JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate is catching up to Boone County sheriff's deputies and their practices by tightening the law on when law enforcement can use deadly force.

Senators voted 30-2 on Thursday for a bill that would mean police officers can only use deadly force when a fleeing felon poses an immediate danger.  

If the bill becomes a law, police won't see much of a change in procedure.

"This language that has been presented now is just contemporizing what law enforcement in Missouri has been doing for many decades," Boone County Chief Deputy Tom Reddin said. 

Columbia Police has been using a procedure that aligns with what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tennessee vs. Garner. In this case from 1985, a Tennessee officer used deadly force on an apparently fleeing, unarmed suspect. 

"The Supreme Court examined this case and said 'yeah you can't just shoot somebody because they've committed a felony and are fleeing.' There has to be certain mitigating circumstances," Reddin said. 

At the time, Missouri also had a fleeing felon statute, but law enforcement agencies chose to follow the ruling of the 1985 case instead of Missouri law.

Reddin said the amount of force used is unique to each case. 

"The force that law enforcement uses is indirect response to the resistance that the person they are trying to make contact with, arrest, detain or whatever that case may be," Reddin said.  

He said this bill would make clarifications to and comtemporize the language to adapt to current practices.

"It's three decades in coming that this language needed to be changed," Reddin said.