Two bills passed to strengthen penalty of disarming police
Two bills to further protect on duty officers are currently awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon's signature. The Columbia Police Officers' Association has supported legislation that would make it a felony to disarm a law enforcement agent of any weapon, not simply their handgun.
Executive Director Dale Roberts proposed the legislation after Columbia police officers Clint Sinclair and Patrick Corcoran explained their concerns with people taking weapons from officers during confrontations.
Officers are trying to make sure that they are as safe as possible at all times, and if it's only a felony to take an officer's firearm, then that leaves other potentially dangerous objects available.
As Chief of Staff for Legislative and Governmental Inquiries Major Tim McDonald said, any weapon can become very dangerous is used incorrectly.
"If any other of the officer's equipment such as a baton or something is taken, while that may be considered less lethal force, it it's not used properly, than it can become lethal force," McDonald said.
That's exactly what the officers are trying to avoid.
"If they take our firearm, that's a felony," Roberts said. "But the law the makes it a felony to disarm an officer only addresses a firearm. Back when it was written, nobody was thinking about pepper spray or Tasers."
Roberts brought the idea to Columbia Representative Stephen Webber who helped mold the current statue into two bills that would make it a felony to take an officer's Taser, pepper spray and any other nonlethal weapons.
Roberts explained that this isn't just for the safety of the officers, either.
"If you take a weapon away from an officer, then you are a danger to everyone else," Roberts said. "Immediately, it's a danger to the officer, and in addition it’s a danger to others.
Their goal is to provide as much legal protection as possible, and with the rewording of these bills, Roberts believe that can happen.
As McDonald states though, this could also be used to inform the public.
"People who choose to rip things from an officer's belt and use those same things against them, often when that happens it leads to a situation where deadly force is justified," McDonald said. "Perhaps this will be that deterrent that the public needs to know."