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Missouri Governor Calls For More Training For Law Enforcement Officers

Elle Moxley
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has set what he's calling an 'aggressive' timeline for improving the state's law enforcement officer training program. He announced the changes in Kansas City Thursday morning.

Missouri’s law enforcement training program will get an overhaul later this year, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday at Kansas City Police Headquarters.

“The training requirements have not been upped or refreshed in any substantive way since 1996, and the actions of last summer – not only in Ferguson, but around the country over the last year – have told us in a very clear way that we have an opportunity to lead, and we’re going to do just that,” Nixon said.

Nixon has imposed a Dec. 1 deadline for the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission and the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the two bodies tasked with creating the new rules. He’s asked them to focus on fair and impartial policing, as well as tactical training and officer well-being.

“That means de-escalating volatile situations, correctly assessing threats and interacting with individuals experiencing mental health or domestic crisis,” Nixon said. “(There’s) a need to build greater trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect and serve.”

Lane Roberts with the Missouri Department of Public Safety says when he began his career in law enforcement more than four decades ago, there was little training for police officers. That’s changed, but those rules and standards aren’t enough.

“It’s insufficient just to be procedurally correct. The end result, if it’s not justice, misses the mark,” Roberts said.

The governor counted Ferguson one among many reasons that prompted his decision to call for a change. He praised Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte for setting consistently high standards for his department. Many of Nixon’s priorities overlap with Forte’s, especially a renewed focus on the health and well-being of officers.

“I feel we all recognize there’s a need to change,” Forte said, adding he believes his department will be receptive to additional training hours. “We started these initiatives over three years ago.”

Also Thursday, Nixon made five new appointments to the POST Commission, including Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III of Kansas City; Springfield Police Chief Paul F. Williams; Sikeston Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden; St. Louis Police Detective Edward Clark; and KCPD Street Crimes Unit Supervisor Jeffery Hughley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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