Missouri Passes Bill Requiring Hospitals to Offer Rape Kits

All Missouri hospitals would be required to provide rape kits under a bill focused on the rights of sexual assault survivors that lawmakers passed Tuesday.

Few Missouri hospitals currently have staff certified to gather DNA samplings and other evidence of sexual assault through rape kits, which can be used by law enforcement and prosecutors to catch and convict rapists. There are only 27 sexual assault nurse examiners in the state, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve justice, care and comfort,” Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many Missouri hospitals do not have the resources needed to properly respond to these traumatic situations.”

Schupp pushed to add the requirement that all licensed hospitals provide rape kits by 2023 to the broader bill on sexual assault and rape kits, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig. Schupp said the change will mean survivors “will no longer be faced with the difficult decision to forgo a rape kit or to drive great distances to obtain one.”

Spokesman Dave Dillon said the Missouri Hospital Association is “absolutely supportive” of speeding up the process of conducting and testing rape kits. But he said requiring all hospitals to conduct rape kits “doesn’t make it easier to actuate on the ground.”

Dillon said hiring properly trained nurses will be difficult amid a nursing shortage, and cash-strapped hospitals now have to prioritize which specialty training they can afford.

There are workarounds in the bill to help hospitals that might struggle getting nurses with the training needed to perform the exams.

The measure would give hospitals access to virtual and in-person training on how to perform rape kits. If a hospital does not have properly trained staff by then and a victim asks for a rape kit, a doctor or nurse with the statewide training program would be available to virtually coach them through an exam.

The requirement that all hospitals be able to provide exams would only take effect if the statewide training is available. The health department could also issue year-long waivers “sparingly” if certain hospitals don’t have adequate internet access to the statewide training services.

The bill also would enact a “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” that says victims don’t have to pay for rape kits and can get a free shower after an exam, if that’s available.

Rape survivors would have the right to have a support person and a rape crisis center employee or volunteer present during interviews with police, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They could choose whether to speak with a male or female officer.

Other provisions in the bill would require the state to create a central storage center for unreported rape kits and require those kits to be stored for at least five years.

“Thousands of untested kits have been sitting in hospitals and police departments for years,” Koenig said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and my legislation puts a stop to it.”

Republican Rep. Justin Hill questioned holding on to rape kits from victims who don’t want to pursue charges that “we essentially don’t need” because “there’s no crime since there’s no prosecution.”

“Do we just hang on to this DNA of Missouri citizens who were never charged with a crime?” he said on the House floor.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov​​. Mike Parson, who has not said whether he will sign it.

House lawmakers also on Tuesday sent Parson a wide-ranging bill that  would limit what are called punitive damages, which are awarded as a way to financially punish defendants for causing harm.

If signed by Parson, who typically supports limiting lawsuits, the bill would only allow punitive damages if the person suing “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.”

The measure passed the House 98-51.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com

Fallen Law Enforcement Officers to be Honored During Virtual Candlelight Vigil on May 13

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is centered in the 400 block of E Street, NW, Washington, DC and is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. Dedicated on October 15, 1991, the Memorial honors federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation and its people.

 

The names of fallen U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty will be formally dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during a virtual Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

Traditionally held on the National Mall with more than 30,000 first responders, surviving families and law enforcement supporters in attendance, special remarks and the names of each of the men and women who died in the line of duty during 2019 will be read aloud during the virtual Candlelight Vigil, which will be live streamed. The names of fallen law enforcement officers who died earlier in history, but whose sacrifice had not been previously documented, will also be read during this time.

“The current crisis that our nation and the world is facing has resulted in the cancellation of public gatherings in DC during National Police Week 2020,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto. “We will not let this crisis deter us from honoring the fallen. We plan to march forward in solidarity with a virtual Candlelight Vigil and the reading of the names that can be watched from anywhere in the world. Then, as the future becomes more certain and the end of the crisis is near, we will begin to make plans for an in-person reading of names to honor our fallen officers.”

Located in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is a living monument to ensure the men and women who died in the line of duty will never be forgotten. The names engraved on the Memorial’s walls represent fallen officers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia,  U.S. territories, federal law enforcement, and military police agencies.

HISTORY

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Currently, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, DC to participate in a number of planned events which honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events which attracts thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation’s Capital each year.

The National Peace Officers Memorial Service, which is sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, is one in a series of events which includes the Candlelight Vigil, which is sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and seminars sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.)

National Police Week draws in between 25,000 to 40,000 attendees. The attendees come from departments throughout the United States as well as from agencies throughout the world. This provides a unique opportunity to meet others who work in law enforcement. In that spirit, the Fraternal Order of Police DC Lodge #1 sponsors receptions each afternoon and evening during Police Week. These events are open to all law enforcement personnel and are an experience unlike any other.

Watch recorded coverage of the 2019 Memorial Service at the U.S. capitol by clicking on this link.

US Attorneys Announce St. Louis Task Force

Federal, state and local law enforcement are teaming up to create a new drug and organized crime task force in St. Louis, U.S. attorneys for the region announced Tuesday.

Officials say the goal of the Gateway Strike Force is to combine resources to investigate drug trafficking, murders and other crimes committed by gangs and cartels in the St. Louis area, both in Missouri and in nearby Illinois.

The strike force is under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, which is an independent component of the U.S. Department of Justice. Similar strike forces are in place in 18 other cities, including Kansas City, which announced its program in December.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Delworth said the strike force will initially get $600,000 for the program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. He said the strike force also will have greater access to tracking devices, wiretaps and undercover agents.

Gateway Strike Force investigations are geared toward federal prosecutions but officials say it could also lead to criminal prosecutions in state courts.

Groups participating in the strike force include the DEA, FBI, St. Louis County and city police, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard.

 
​Associated Press | News Tribune​

Stress Awareness and Management in COVID-19 World

In our day to day life, no matter what our profession is, or if you’re a student, fast-food worker, parent, care-giver, etc. – it doesn’t matter. Each of us has an average day-to-day stress load we’re used to dealing with. Some people deal with that daily stress better than others, and some folks deal with greatly increased levels of stress with ease. What we need to address is how the added stress of a pandemic can negatively impact your usual stress management skills and alter how you behave. There is nothing wrong with this adjustment in behavior, but you need to at least be aware of it and do what you can to minimize it for your own health and wellness.

In the law enforcement world, we deal with daily stressors that many if not most folks can’t imagine dealing with at all… ever in their lives. The necessity of on-going situational awareness, while it might stress “normal” people, helps law enforcement professionals reduce the stress they perceive or feel. That reality for law enforcement doesn’t apply to all professions though and even those of us with high stress management skills might feel a bit overwhelmed. Why? Because of the add on stress of the unknown.

This morning it was observed in one conversation that there’s a distinct difference between the stress of potentially being shot / shot at, and the stress of not knowing whether or not you’ll be infected by or exposed to COVID-19. Why would that be? For law enforcement, simple situational awareness and the practice of good officer survival skills can reduce your chances of being shot or shot at. It’s a known risk. It’s relatively minimal (depending on where you work). The chance of surviving it even if it happens is high. It’s an accepted and recognized part of the job. It exists in whatever minimal form from day one of the job until you retire and possibly even after that dependent on your outlook toward lifestyle in retirement.

COVID-19 on the other hand… You can’t see it. You don’t know where it is. You can exercise good risk management practices 100% and still not know whether or not you’ve been exposed. If you happen to get infected, symptoms might not show up for as much as ten to fourteen days – or they might not show up at all. At present, there seems no end in sight for how long this threat might be actively part of our day, or if it will ever be mitigated by vaccine or cure.

Let’s take a look at the Stress Continuum Model. This image is available from about a hundred different online sources and resides in the public domain of every social media outlet this author can find. All things being equal, most officers operate in the green, even while at work. With the addition of the daily stress from the COVID-19 concerns and changes in operations, we might find ourselves in the Yellow space instead. That’s not terrible and if we’re aware of it, we can mitigate or resolve it during our off-duty time or with proper self-care (to the best of our ability) on duty.

Our concern should be raised if we feel that we’re already operating in the Yellow space day to day and the addition of the COVID-19 situational impact drops us into the Orange space. This can have a longer term impact as well as impairing our function during our day-to-day life and duty. The most common and obvious way to address such stress matters is, “Talk to someone; seek professional help.” The additional challenge of COVID-19 restrictions is that they may well prevent such face to face counseling opportunities.

Just this morning (as this is published) this author was talking to a police psychologist headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who is conducting counseling and therapeutic sessions virtually by using the ZOOM meeting app.

What we must do is stay aware and take appropriate action to avoid dropping into the RED space. For all of us who normally exist and function in the Green space, dropping into the Yellow during this prolonged time of additional challenge isn’t out of the ordinary. We need to be aware of it and make sure we practice good stress management / mitigation behaviors while off-duty. If we feel ourselves getting overwhelmed and potentially dropping into the Orange space we must immediately seek assistance and support BEFORE it negatively impacts our behavior and our performance on duty.

Here are a few things you can do to assist in maintaining a positive outlook and/or reducing the impact of all the negative “news”:

  • Minimize the negative saturation in your day. Look at infection numbers no more than twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • Make sure that when you look at the COVID-19 infection data you pay attention to the number of negative tests and recoveries as much as, if not more than, the numbers of infected or deaths.
  • See between the sensationalistic headlines and commentary to the actual facts. News media outlets habitually use language and sentence structure that makes things sound worse than they are. It’s how they keep people coming back or staying glued to the TV screen. It’s how they increase their ratings and therefore advertising revenues. Don’t buy into the hype, but pay attention to the data reported that is supported factually.
  • Assess your own health and risk. The risk of serious challenge from a COVID-19 infection is much higher for those over 60 years of age or who have other pre-existing health conditions. Be realistic about your own risk, both positive and negative.
  • Set the example in your community by practicing the recommended prevention protocols related to COVID-19: wash your hands frequently; avoid touching your face, particularly any area with mucus / moist membranes. Maintain a six foot minimum space when talking to people (haven’t we always done this as “reactionary gap?”).
  • Don’t feed the hype or panic. As you serve your community, be the voice of reason.

We are all in this together and we can all come out of it together if we support one another and maintain ourselves properly. That doesn’t just mean avoiding infection but also taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally and physically.

Stay safe.

By Lt. Frank Borelli, the editorial director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20-plus years of writing and editing experience in addition to over 35 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team. 

Governor Parson Makes Court Appointments

Governor Mike Parson ​appointed two prosecuting attorneys and two judges on Friday, May 1.

He ​appointed Kelly W. Puckett as the Grundy County ​Prosecuting Attorney​ and William Lynch as the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney.

Puckett has served as the interim prosecuting attorney for Grundy County since January 2019. He holds bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Missouri Western State University and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University School of Law. 
 
Lynch has served as the interim prosecuting attorney since the Honorable Judge Jake Skouby took office as an Associate Circuit Judge in the 40th Judicial Circuit.​ ​Lynch holds bachelor’s degree from Missouri Southern State University and a master’s degree and Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Gov​.​ Parson ​also ​appointed the Honorable Scott A. Lipke as Circuit Judge for the 32nd Judicial Circuit​ and he ​appointed Alan Beussink as Associate Circuit Judge for the 32nd  Judicial Circuit.
 
Lipke​ will fill the Circuit Judge vacancy created by the appointment of the Honorable Michael Gardner to​ the​ Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.​ ​Lipke, of Jackson, is currently serving as an Associate Circuit Judge of the 32nd Judicial Circuit. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and a Juris Doctorate from Valparaiso University School of Law in Valparaiso, Indiana.
 
Beussink will fill the Associate Circuit Judge vacancy created by the departure of the Honorable Scott. E. Thomsen.​ ​Beussink, of Leopold, currently serves as a partner at the law firm Whiffen and Beussink. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.

Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Retires

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2020

 

With today’s official retirement of Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Kenny Jones, local communities lose a true champion and supporter of local issues.

From 1985 to 2004 Jones served his community well as Moniteau County sheriff. In 2005 he continued his service to local communities when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives from District 117.

While in the House, Jones pushed for legislation to benefit local school districts, as well as legislation to provide better benefits for veterans who became state employees. He sponsored and was instrumental in passing legislation to pay local sheriffs’ deputies a living wage. Thanks to his dedication and hard work, today more than 350 local law enforcement families are no longer needing some type of public assistance.

During his time as deputy director, Jones consistently held the needs of local communities at the forefront – ensuring their needs were looked after – whether though funding, allocation of resources or simply through open communication.

Communities need representation from someone with local roots, a track record of serving at the local level, and a dedication to local communities.  As Jones moves into future endeavors, we encourage leadership to seek a replacement with qualities such as he brought to the department.

We wish Kenny Jones all the best in retirement. He will be missed.

 

Kevin Merritt
Executive Director

 

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Governor Orders Capitol Dome to Shine Blue in Honor of Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

In honor of Missouri’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, Governor Mike Parson has ordered the Missouri State Capitol dome and the Law Enforcement Memorial to be lit blue through Sunday night, May 3.

This year, organizers of the annual Missouri Law Enforcement Candlelight Vigil and Memorial Service are not able to hold the traditional ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial Board organized a small ceremony at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the north side of the Capitol on Thursday evening, April 30. Photog​​raphs of the ceremony and the Capitol lighted in blue last night are available for use at this Flickr album link.  

“Each year, the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial ceremonies bring comfort and strength to this state’s law enforcement community as they gather to remember our brave fallen,” Governor Parson said. “While we will miss the ceremonies this May, I have ordered the Capitol and the law enforcement memorial to shine blue to honor all of our law enforcement heroes who have paid the ultimate price. They will never be forgotten.”    

“For the last 25 years, we have gathered at the memorial to find strength, solace and support from our Missouri law enforcement community,” Missouri Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said. “This year, attendance at our commemoration was forced to be smaller than in the past, but our appreciation of the sacrifices of our fallen comrades, and the strength of their survivors is not diminished. We will always remember those who lay down their lives for their fellow citizens.”

This year, two names were added to the memorial’s Wall of Honor for those who died in the line of duty:

Wayne M. Niedenberg – On June 6, 2019, Lakeshire Police Department Chief Wayne M. Niedenberg was en route to his home when he came across a rollover crash. He radioed for assistance and provided aid to the crash victims. He then suffered a fatal heart attack after arriving at his home.

Michael V. Langsdorf – On June 23, 2019, North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael V. Langsdorf responded to investigate a call about a man attempting to pass a bad check at a Wellston business. During a struggle, the man pulled a handgun from his waistband and fatally shot Officer Langsdorf.

Appeals Court Turns Down CCW Argument

The Court of Appeals Eastern District ruled April 21 that a man whose felonies would be just misdemeanors in some other states still can’t get a concealed carry license.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department denied Tonie M. Townsend a permit because he had pleaded guilty in 1999 in Missouri to two felony counts of criminal non-support. Though he had completed his probation — and was pardoned in 2016 by Gov. Jay Nixon — the fact that Townsend had pleaded guilty to the felonies remained on his record, disqualifying him from a concealed carry permit.

On appeal, Townsend argued that Missouri’s concealed carry law makes an exception if the​​ person’s crime is “classified as a misdemeanor under the laws of any state.” At least seven other states treat non-support as a misdemeanor even if it carries a sentence greater than one year, and Townsend argued that his prior crimes should receive similar treatment.

The appeals court, however, said Townsend’s interpretation was “illogical.” The concealed carry permit law, Judge Gary M. Gaertner Jr. wrote, “includes no intent to require the Sheriff to search the laws of all 50 states to determine the effect of a Missouri felony guilty plea on a CCW permit application.”

The case is Townsend v. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, ED107660.

By Scott Lauck  | molawyersmedia.com

Photo by KY3