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Koster Offers Six Ways To Build A More Diverse Police Force In Missouri

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, center, with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, right, at area high school during height of unrest in Ferguson.
Missouri Attorney General's Office | File photo

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has released six recommendations he says provide the best road map for improving police-community relationships across the state. 

Friday's report compiles ideas Koster heard during two summits in St. Louis and Kansas City in October. The attorney general's office had originally planned to release its recommendations sometime last year.

"The goal of the Roundtables on Representative Policing was to bring together leaders and citizens from our major metropolitan areas to identify barriers to minority participation in law enforcement and discuss areas for opportunity,” Koster said in a written statement that accompanied the release of the report. "This is one way the frustration expressed on the streets of Missouri's urban areas can bring positive change in the policing of our communities."

Koster grouped the six recommendations into legislative changes and best practices. They are:

  • Updating Missouri's Sunshine Law to make any footage captured by police body cameras a closed record.

"Law enforcement officers interact with people at some of their most challenging moments," the report reads. "Adoption of this technology must not lead to a new era of voyeurism and entertainment television at the expense of a Missourian's privacy."

  • Creating a Law Enforcement Education and Scholarship for low-income students who want to become law enforcement officers.

Koster envisions funding the training of 300 new law enforcement officers annually. Qualified students -- low-income students who score about the 50th percentile on a standardized test like the SAT and are in the top 50 percent of their high school class -- would receive $6,600 to attend any accredited law enforcement training program.

  • Updating Missouri's use of force statute.

Missouri law currently allows a police officer to shoot a fleeing felon or use deadly force to make a felony arrest, no matter the circumstance. A 1985 United States Supreme Court case sharply limited the circumstances in which that was appropriate. Koster wants to bring Missouri's law in line with the federal ruling.

The use of force statute was a major point of contention and confusion around the St. Louis County grand jury that investigated the shooting death of Michael Brown.

  • Requiring cities to comply with the state law limiting the amount of money they can collect from traffic fines and court fees.

Under the so-called "Macks Creek law," cities can get no more than 30 percent of their general revenue from court fines and fees. There are efforts underway to drop that limit to 10 percent.

Both Koster and auditor Tom Schweich have launched Macks Creek enforcement efforts in the last four months.

  • Requiring police departments to report the racial and ethnic make-up of their full-time force.

Koster says the data are needed to monitor progress in minority recruitment.

  • Reviewing the state's vehicle stops report, including how the information is collected. 

The yearly traffic stops report frequently shows that African-American drivers are stopped at a higher rate than than white drivers, but the numbers are criticized because of how they are calculated.
"Task force recommendations should focus on the type of data collected in order to improve the state's analysis of vehicle pattern stops," the report says.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.