State passes first police reform bill since Michael Brown’s death

The St. Louis American reported on May 20, 2021

Last December, Sen. Williams told The St. Louis American he was headed into the legislative session with one thing in mind: passing police reform bill by opening the dialogue with Republicans by sharing his and other people of color’s experiences.

Last week, Williams was able to do just that.

“I think this is something that’s going to really move our state forward and this is the first time we’ve had any progressive reform since the death of Michael Brown. Today, we can actually say Black lives matter.”
– Senator Brian Williams

Williams’ bill, combined with another, will implement a whole list of police reforms including prohibiting law enforcement from using chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized, increasing penalty for officers who engage in sexual conduct with a person in their custody and preventing officers from simply moving to another department after being discharged for wrongdoing.

Additional reforms include a statewide database to keep track of officers who have been investigated or reprimanded for too much force, expediting the expungement process for non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenses, as well as modifies state law so that officers have discretion on arresting someone with a warrant for a misdemeanor traffic offense.

The bill also includes a provision that would allow a prosecutor’s ability to file a notion to vacate sentences based on innocence – which could potentially change the case of Lamar Johnson.

“When I was elected to the Senate, I was the first Black man to go there in 20 years. And I understood immediately that George Floyd could have easily been me. And that’s never lost upon me — Brianna Taylor, Michael Brown — they all should be alive today and I truly believe by just making that case to my Republican colleagues, clearly and very diligently and persistently through the process, we were very fortunate to get this across the finish line.”
– Senator Brian Williams