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Community Safety
Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Gov. Jay Nixon Directs Improvement of Law Enforcement Training in Missouri

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Kathryn Eutsler
/
KSMU

Missouri governor Jay Nixon is mandating an improvement in police officer training and standards throughout the state.

“They are called upon to handle crimes and crises fueled by severe mental illness, domestic violence, drug addiction, and child abuse. They must confront the herring phenomenon of active shooters who indiscriminately harm others,” Nixon says.

But even with the increasing dangers, Nixon says, training and education standards for these officers that must address these dangers have remained essentially the same. For example, laws mandating the amount of ongoing training officers must receive have not been changed for almost twenty years.

To ensure standards are updated, Nixon is mandating improved training in 3 key areas and has set a deadline of December 1 of this year.  

First, he mandates a focus on tactical training. This will verse officers in essential communication and counseling skills in specific situations.

“That means deescalating volatile situations, correctly assessing threats, and interacting with individuals experiencing a mental health or domestic crises,” according to Nixon.

Secondly, Nixon says officers should receive increased training in fair and impartial policing

“Events here in Missouri and across the country this year have prompted a national dialogue about the need to build greater trust between law enforcement officers in the communities they protect and serve,” he says.

That trust is the foundation for public safety, Nixon says, and this second key mandate will strengthen police and citizen relationships.

Thirdly, Nixon emphasizes the importance of officer well-being.

“Law enforcement officers are heroes, they are dedicated. They have dedicated their lives to helping others. But they are also human, and we need to make sure they have the tools to stay healthy, both mentally and physically,” says Nixon.

In addition to outlining key areas for improvement, Nixon is making five new appointments to the POST commission. POST, or Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, determines and regulates law enforcement training and distributes officer licenses.

Among those appointed is Springfield Chief of Police Paul Williams. Nixon says Chief Williams’  34 years in law enforcement and work with the International Association of Chiefs of Police  make him well suited to serve in this capacity.

“I think the chief is well positioned to reflect the nuances and the voices- from a statewide perspective, but also specifically southwest Missouri,” says Nixon.

Chief Williams agrees.

“Our training academy here has about twice what is required for recruits. I’m excited about the possibility of maybe taking what we do here and sharing some of those ideas and thoughts and maybe spreading them around the state,” says Williams.

Additionally, Williams says having representatives from all over the state of Missouri will ensure it is truly a statewide effort. Other new appointees are from throughout the state, with two officials from Kansas City, one from Sikeston, and one from St. Louis.

“The only challenge I see is that we’ve got 90 days, almost 100 days, to get something done,” Williams says of the December 1st deadline.

Overall, Williams says he hopes to restore what he considers a tarnished image of law enforcement.

“I want to remind people that it is like any other profession- not everyone is perfect. But the vast majority, the 99.9% of men and woman in law enforcement, are hard-working, dedicated professionals. So if the work of the commission can help enhance that and make sure they are upholding that standard statewide, then I’ll know we have done a good job.”