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Missouri passes bill to limit police use of chokeholds, sending it to Parson's desk

Reform, approved by 140-4 vote, stands as rare action taken by state in response to police violence
Credit: KSDK

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri's Legislature on Thursday passed a bill limiting when police can use chokeholds in a rare step to take action in response to police violence.

The Republican-led House voted 140-4 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, a former sheriff. The measure includes numerous other police- and criminal-law-related rules, which likely helped it gain widespread support.

Little has been done by Missouri’s Republican Legislature since a white Ferguson police officer fatally shot unarmed Black 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014.

This bill was prompted by the death of another Black man, Minnesota's George Floyd. A white officer last year pressed his knee on the neck of Floyd, who was handcuffed, until Floyd stopped breathing.

Under the Missouri bill, police could only use chokeholds in self-defense if they or someone else are in serious danger.

The bill also would end the requirement that Kansas City police live in that city.

Parson had threatened to veto the bill over a provision that would have given lawmakers the power to issue subpoenas requiring people to testify before legislative committees.

But Republican bill sponsor Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer stripped that provision from the final version.

The ACLU of Missouri applauded the legislature's work to reform criminal justice through the chokehold provision.

Among the other reforms are steps toward the decriminalization of HIV, the creation of a use-of-force database and the affirmation of a prosecutor’s ability to reconsider cases when evidence emerges proving innocence.

“Until now, a prosecutor in Missouri had no way to present evidence of innocence to a court," St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell said. “In some cases, that led to grievous injustices. This law is a big step in the right direction."

The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP opposed ending the requirement that Kansas City officers live in the city.

"The lack of residency requirements will further decrease the trust level between the police department and members of the community," Kansas City NAACP President Rev. Rodney Williams said. "This is another step in the wrong direction."