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Parson Signs Missouri Crime Bill, Critics Call It 'Wish List' For Police

Gov. Mike Parson discusses violent crime with mayors at the Capitol last November.
Office of Missouri Governor
Gov. Mike Parson discusses violent crime with mayors at the Capitol last November.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday signed an omnibus crime bill that he said will allow law enforcement to crack down on violent criminals. 

The bill creates the offense of vehicle hijacking, mandates prison time for certain offenses, stiffens penalties for armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a gun and also allows someone to be charged in a conspiracy to commit a crime. 

In his afternoon press briefing, Parson spoke about two Kansas City police officers who had been shot on Thursday. One officer was wounded in the head and remains hospitalized in stable condition, according to the Associated Press. Parson weaved the shootings into a talk about civil unrest caused by the killing of George Floyd, and the difference between protesters and violent criminals. The shootings in Kansas City were not connected to protests.

“People need to understand the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make every day,” Parson said. “For the period we’re going through right now, if there ever was a time for all of us to stand up and make sure we support them, now's the time. Cause I tell ya, they feel like they’ve been beaten down.” 

Parson, a former sheriff, said he promised law enforcement officers he would “stand up for them by whatever means that takes as governor of the state of Missouri.” He said that the measure is an initial step in equipping officers with the tools they need, but that there’s more to be done. 

Critics say it will do little to address crime. The ACLU of Missouri said that the measureis a “wish list” for law enforcement and that it “takes more power away from the people.” 

The organization said the bill would cost taxpayers $16 million annually and increase the prison population by 2,500. 

Parson said “it holds violent offenders accountable for their actions and is a major step towards safety and justice for our communities. We must continue working together to identify solutions, address crime, and keep Missourians safe.” 

In a statement, Americans for Prosperity-Missouri said the measure “institutes disproportionate sentencing requirements that do not improve public safety.” 

“It’s sad Missouri is repeating decades of past mistakes by embracing discredited tough on crime policies that fail to make our communities safer,” said State Director Jeremy Cady. “Locking up more people does not result in safer neighborhoods, but rather harms taxpayers and needlessly rips families and communities apart.”Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.