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New training required for police officers
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New training required for police officers

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New training standards for law enforcement officers have been approved on an emergency basis by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office, and became effective with the new year.

The new standards, which require one hour of continuing education training in de-escalation and one hour in implicit bias for officers to maintain their licenses, were approved by the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission on Oct. 5.

“Our law enforcement officers take on extraordinary risks and make tremendous sacrifices to make Missouri safer,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “These enhanced standards will help equip officers with relevant, up-to-date training to meet the challenges they face daily and facilitate better communication and interactions with the public.”

St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said the Missouri Sheriff’s Association was already providing some of the required training. The sheriff said some of his department’s staff have already begun participating in the new training, which must be completed by Dec. 28.

Bullock said he is in favor of additional training, provided any additional training requirements do not reach a point where they interfere with department operations.

“We always think training is a good thing as long it doesn’t get to the point where it hinders us from doing our job,” said Bullock. “I have 61 certified police officers on this department, and when you’re adding training, and it takes away from their work here, it can go overboard sometimes with the mandatory things.”

Bullock explained that each department throughout the state pays for its own annual training. He said he believed agency leaders across the state would agree that required training is beneficial to the communities they serve.

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“I’ve talked to sheriffs all over the state, and I don’t think you’ll find any chief or sheriff around that’s going to say that training is not a good thing,” the sheriff noted.

POST Commission Chair and Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said he hoped to see improved community relationships forged as a result of the changes.

“We believe these training changes, which were unanimously approved by the POST Commission, will lead to better interactions between officers and the public and can help strengthen relations with the communities we in law enforcement serve,” Owen said. “The POST Commissioners appreciate Secretary of State Ashcroft’s office for its quick action allowing us to implement these new officer training standards so officers and all Missourians can benefit from the de-escalation and implicit bias training.”

As required by state statute, the new POST training rules had to be filed with the Secretary of State and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The normal rule-making process could not have been completed in time for the new training requirements to take effect in 2021. The emergency approval means they can be implemented on an expedited basis.

While the rules are in effect on an emergency basis, the normal rule-making process and public comment period will occur. The rule-making process generally takes at least six months to complete. After the process is completed, the changes may become permanent.

“The POST commission’s actions came as a result of thorough public discussions and reviewing the results of more than 2,000 surveys of the public and law enforcement officers on the subjects of law enforcement training and discipline in Missouri,” Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said. “The commission unanimously approved these moves as part of the effort to strengthen both law enforcement training and relations between officers and the communities we serve.”

Missouri law enforcement officers must complete 24 hours of annual continuing education training to maintain their licenses. The POST Commission’s action on Oct. 5 required the one hour each in de-escalation and implicit bias training be part of each officer’s 24 hours of annual training, not in addition to it, according to the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The POST Commission also appointed two committees to work on two other proposals:

  • Developing a course of instruction for Missouri’s basic training academies on the history of policing and minority community relations, including the origins of policing in the United States.
  • Exploring ways to require law enforcement agencies to check with Missouri’s POST program on an applicant’s past history as an officer before hiring experienced officers.

Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com

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