Two months after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri, and as protests in the St. Louis area continue, a state legislator, Rep. Jay Barnes (R-District 60), wants to submit legislation that would remove the responsibility to decide whether to charge cops after shootings from local prosecutors and transfer it to the state attorney general's office. KMBC reports:
State Rep. Jay Barnes said he plans to file legislation during 2015 session that would give the state attorney general's office the responsibility for determining whether charges should be filed against law enforcement officers who fatally shoot people.
"There's an inevitable appearance of bias in a case where a prosecutor has to decide whether to take action against an officer who works for an agency that prosecutor works hand-in-hand with every single day," Barnes, a Republican attorney from Jefferson City, said Monday.
Handing fatal police shootings over to the attorney general's office won't eliminate the problem of law enforcement bias, but it does create some distance between the members of the law enforcement community being investigated and the members of the law enforcement community doing the investigating.
It also brings up the question of whether the decision to prosecute cops for non-fatal but questionable incidents should also be removed from local prosecutors (yes).
The Michael Brown also drew attention to the need for independent agencies to investigate cops, and not just non-local agencies . A piece in Politico by Michael Brown, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel whose son was fatally shot by cops, described his long and arduous campaign to get an independent review commission for police shootings in Wisconsin, something the state never had before. Bell used his portion of a settlement by police (a tactic often used to remove questionable incidents from judicial scrutiny, at the taxpayers expense) to help get a law passed.
Like other reforms aimed at improving policing as it impacts people every day, they can benefit residents, who receive some measure of protection from unchecked police brutality, and cops, whose image can improve on whose bad apples can be removed.
Update: Here's Barnes' column on the proposal, which ran last week.