Gov. Parson signs crime bills passed in extra session
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has signed two bills into law he says will help the state stem a troubling rise in violent crime.
One bill effectively creates a new state bank account to pay to protect witnesses to crimes across Missouri.
The state technically already has such a thing, but it is poorly funded and difficult for police to access. The new account is supposed to offer easier access and more money to help law enforcement secure crime-solving tips, though the legislature has yet to put any money in it.
The other bill attempts to help St. Louis hire more police officers by suspending a rule requiring them to live in the city for their first seven years on the force.
Mayor Lyda Krewson and top city police officials pleaded for the change as they grappled with what could be the worst year for homicides in a half-century while short more than 100 officers, arguing that the “residency rule” is the No. 1 deal-breaker for would-be hires.
The new law would reinstate the requirement in three years, but St. Louis voters could eliminate it entirely if they approve a proposal on their Nov. 3 ballot.
It is not yet clear how effective the new laws will be in reducing violent crime, though the two measures were seen as the most useful of seven ideas Parson, a Republican, put forward in an extra legislative session this summer.
Criminologists told the News-Leader that protecting witnesses is always a good idea and that having more officers in St. Louis could be helpful if officials deploy them properly.
They were more skeptical of plans to create new criminal penalties for certain offenses and let the state Attorney General prosecute St. Louis murder cases, though, and the Republican-dominated legislature ultimately rejected the rest of Parson’s agenda last week.
Experts also recommended enacting police reform measures to rein in behavior that eroded trust in law enforcement in critical areas, but Parson said that could wait until next year.