Missouri lawmaker proposes adding ‘abuse of force’ charge for police who abuse power

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Ron Hicks is proposing legislation that would give the state a better option to punish officers of the law who abuse their authority. Hicks’ legislation would create the offense of abuse of force if an officer uses grossly unreasonable force that causes physical injury to another person.

Hicks said it is important to support and respect the majority of law enforcement officers who serve honorably, but the state must also have an effective tool to discipline those who do not.

“In the wake of the George Floyd case and the protests that have rocked our nation, many Americans on both sides of the aisle have called for significant change to increase accountability for law enforcement. Our current criminal code isn’t designed to charge police officers, which makes charging decisions complicated and time-consuming, even when there’s a seemingly obvious crime that’s caught on video,” said Hicks, R-Defiance.

He added, “I am proposing a bill that creates a new charge to address the situation. By creating the crime of ‘abuse of force’ an officer would face the same penalties that a civilian would for the same conduct. With this we can protect officers who use force appropriately, and make it easier to punish those who abuse the authority entrusted to them.”

The abuse of force charge would carry penalties ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class A felony, depending on the circumstances. Hicks noted that the new charge would not replace other charges. Instead it would create a new option. An officer could still be charged with murder, assault, or any other crime supported by the facts.

Hicks said his bill also would eliminate the defense of “just following orders.” Additionally it would require that any peace officer found guilty of the offense to have his or her commission automatically suspended or revoked. Hicks said the provision would ensure there is no “administrative loophole” that allows the officer to stay employed as a peace officer.

Hicks said he plans to file the legislation when bill pre-filing begins on December 1. The complete language for the bill can be found online at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/representative-ron-hicks/abuse-of-force-draft-language/3663983600283549/