Peace officers host public review forum

Kirksville residents and Adair County law enforcement officers voiced their concerns and suggestions regarding officer training standards during a public meeting Oct. 14.

The Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission and the Missouri Department of Public Safety hosted a public meeting in compliance with Gov. Jay Nixon’s directive that the POST commission update and enhance law enforcement training standards. The POST commission and MDPS have traveled to St. Louis, Springfield, Kansas City, Jefferson City and Sikeston, Missouri, gathering public input about what needs to be changed. Kirksville was the commission’s last public hearing before it begins creating the new regulations. The deadline for the new rules is Dec. 1.

Nixon instructed the commission specifically to focus on improving training standards in the areas of tactical training, fair and impartial policing, and the health and well-being of officers, according to a press release.

MDPS Director Lane Roberts began the meeting by giving a short history of POST and how training requirements have changed throughout the years. Roberts said POST cannot require more than 600 hours of training, though individual agencies can offer more training.

The commission heard comments from three individuals at the meeting. State Rep. Nate Walker was present to voice his support of the commission. Adair County Sheriff Robert Hardwick asked the commission to look at hiring, termination and accountability policies. Jarad Green, Truman State program coordinator for multicultural affairs, asked the commission to increase training about bias and racial profiling, and for the commission to stress the importance of law enforcement supporting and collaborating with students.

Roberts says the next step will be for the commission to spend these next few weeks breaking down the concerns voiced by citizens across the state and coming up with regulations that meet those needs. He says the commission will seek internal and external input about the new standards as it creates them.

Roberts says the three areas of focus outlined by Nixon are important to consider. Roberts says the issue of fair and impartial policing, specifically regarding race, seems to be the central focus of the public’s concerns. He says the mental and physical health and well-being of officers always is an area of concern. He says the commission looks at ways to help officers react to job stressors. When it comes to tactical concerns, Roberts said Nixon wanted the commission to focus on how to de-escalate situations so there isn’t a need for physical confrontation that runs the risk of people being hurt.

“De-escalation is more than just communication — I know that people would like to simplify it. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not.”

       – Lane Roberts, MDPS Director

Roberts says the commission determined where to host the meetings by looking at population distribution centers, and tried to spread the meetings evenly across the state. He says concerns seem to differ in rural versus urban areas.

For more from Roberts on concerns and other details read more on Issuu.