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'Use of force' overhaul faces uncertain fate in Missouri House

Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's use of deadly force law would become more in line with federal standards under a bill being weighed by a House committee.

Current state law does not specify that a police officer has to believe a fleeing suspect is dangerous to use deadly force. Senate Bill 661, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, would change the standard to more closely align with the national standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This bill would clean up the conflict in our deadly force statute that was created as a result of the Tennessee v. Garner case, which we did not adapt to in our statutes," Dixon told the House Emerging Issues committee Monday. "It came to light after the Ferguson grand jury, and the conflicting jury instructions, during that situation."

No one testified in favor or in opposition to bill Monday night. It was passed earlier this month by the Missouri Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, 30-2.

Dixon's bill is a compromise version that combines earlier proposals filed by Sens. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City.

Its chances in the House remain uncertain, as similar bills sponsored by House members have not received a hearing.

A similar bill passed by the Senate last year also died in the House. It was one of several pieces of legislation that was part of the "Ferguson agenda" that were filed in the aftermath of the fatal shooting in 2014 of Michael Brown by then-police officer Darren Wilson.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.