FILE - Missouri State Capitol

Missouri State Capitol across the Missouri River at night in Jefferson City, Missouri.

(The Center Square) — Law enforcement advocates, including representatives from the Missouri State Troopers Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, were among those who testified in favor of two proposed bills Monday before a key Senate panel.

Surprisingly, one bill is a proposed sweeping police reform package that, among other things, would ban chokeholds.

Not surprisingly, the other is a measure cracking down on violence during civil disturbances, essentially the Senate version of the House’s ‘Fleeing Motorist Protection Act,’ which would offer legal protections for drivers who inadvertently hit “rioters.”

Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, which would ban chokeholds and classify an officer engaging in sexual activity with a detainee as a Class E felony, among other provisions, was advanced Monday by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

SB 60 would ban police chokeholds, put limits on police having sex while on duty and install a policy that could limit police who have been disciplined from being hired by other departments. It also includes new protocols in resorting to deadly force.

During Monday’s hearing, Williams called SB 60 “common sense legislation” that would make “the streets safer and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.” 

“I firmly believe there is more that unites us than divides us, This is not an ‘us versus them’ situation,” he said. “Through common-sense reforms — banning chokeholds, preventing of sexual misconduct, making sure that bad officers are not allowed to avoid accountability for their actions — we can improve police (and) community relations, and we can restore the trust that’s the very foundation of public safety.”

No one testified in opposition to SB 60 but several groups representing sheriffs, police chiefs and rank-and-file officers spoke on its behalf. 

“We want to thank Sen. Williams for his efforts over the last six to eight months, sitting down with everyone involved, and reaching a consensus on a really good piece of legislation,” Missouri State Troopers Association Legislative Director Brad Thielemier said.

Noting support among law enforcement, Williams said the Legislature’s dominant Republicans should sign on to get the measure adopted. “This is going to require all hands on deck,” he said.

Many of the same law enforcement representatives and lobbyists who spoke in support of Williams’ SB 60, also testified on behalf of SB 66, which would impose a bevy of conditions and sanctions for “unlawful assemblies,” including removing a driver's liability for hitting a person taking part in a protest in a public right-of-way.

SB 66, filed by Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, would make it a felony to “conspire” with six or more people to violate Missouri laws against rioting or unlawful assembly. 

Brattin’s SB 66 would deny benefits to public employees convicted of unlawful assembly or rioting, withhold state funds from local governments that cut police budgets too much and impose a prison term of five to 15 years for vandalizing a monument on public property.

“We have the right for peaceful protests, but that does not protect the right of people to go and destroy monuments,” Brattin told the panel Monday.

Brattin’s SB 66 would make it legal to use deadly force against someone who is participating in an unlawful assembly if that person attempts to enter private property. 

That specific provision was installed to legally protect people like Mark and Patricia McCloskey who drew firearms on protesters on the street outside their Portland Place home last June.

SB 66 was criticized by several opponents, including activist Thomas True of St. Louis and Sharon Jones of the NAACP, who said the bill could encourage citizens to commit violence against protesters.

“It encourages vigilantism,” Jones said.