COVID-19 Webinars Available to Law Enforcement, First Responders

No-Cost training on COVID-19 is being made available for law enforcement and first responders through PoliceOne Academy.

Agencies currently using PoliceOne Academy can access the training through their normal P1A account.

For those agencies not using PoliceOne Academy, they can access the training by going to https://www.lexipol.com/coronavirus/, and again, it is 100 percent free.

An individual can self-sign-up to get access to the training, but if a training supervisor wants to make the training available to his or her entire department, that is free too.

The website states that the individual training would be helpful for law enforcement officers, fire and EMS, corrections officers and city employees.

Department heads and leaders should register under the tab titled “Organizational & Agency.” After filling it out,  someone from the PoliceOne staff will on-board the department and roster information so the training can be assigned to all personnel and progress can be tracked.

COVID-19 Response for Chiefs and Administrators, contains policies and the Roll-call video by Gordon on Pandemic Ready as well as the following courses:

  • Business Continuity
  • Crisis Management
  • Dealing with the Media
  • Pandemic Planning – Elements of the Plan
  • Pandemic Planning – The Planning Organization  

COVID Response for Police contains the following courses:

  • COVID-19 for Law Enforcement
  • COVID-19 for Local Government Personnel
  • Infectious and Communicable Diseases
  • Airborne and Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Roll-call video by Gordon on Pandemic Ready

There will be additional policies added to it throughout the weekend, so it matches everything listed above.

 Please feel free to share this – we want to do our part to keep our cops and their families safe!

County Jails Lack Protective Equipment for Coronavirus Pandemic

A supply of N95 protective masks are stored and ready in the supply room of the Emergency Department on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, at St. Clare Hospital in Fenton. The N95 masks are the type of masks that filter airborne particles such as those produced by the co​​rona virus. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com


In a conference call last Wednesday, experts from across the country discussed a shortage of protective equipment and other measures to combat a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in county jails.

“Among many topics, we talked about a shortage of personal protective equipment and N95 masks for law enforcement and jail personnel,” Kevin Merritt, executive director of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, said by email. “Priority is given to EMS responders and health care facilities.”

The protective equipment helps protect against the spread of infectious disease.

Merritt said the shortage of equipment was among the concerns mentioned in a conference call about COVID-19 on Wednesday with representatives of the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts.

Merritt said the following precautions are suggested to sheriffs and jail administrators:

• Screen staff, arrestees and current incarcerated population for COVID-19.

• Prepare to handle staff coming to work despite being ill because they do not have paid leave or enough paid leave who may pose a risk to other staff and inmates.

• Do non-contact visitation.

• Limit contact between inmates and the community during trips outside of jails.

• Use telemedicine when possible for medical appointments.

St. Louis Today

What Can Law Enforcement Do to Stay Safe During COVID-19?

Police check cars and pedestrians at a checkpoint at the entrance to the Village of Key Biscayne, Fla., Monday, March 23, 2020. The village issued an emergency order, banning all travel, starting Monday, within the village by non-residents, with a few exceptions. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)



The COVID-19 pandemic is bo​​mbarding us at every turn. As a result, it can be easy to dismiss all the information as hype or over-reaction. You cannot let that become your mindset. The coronavirus is present in our communities, and it is our responsibility to take precautions to avoid infection or spreading the virus. This means changing how you provide services so you can still protect yourself and your community. So, as a patrol officer what can you do?

1. KNOW YOUR AGENCY’S POLICIES

Read and understand your agency’s current policies and procedures for dealing with COVID-19. There may be additional preventive guidelines on bloodborne pathogens, communicable diseases, or other biohazardous exposure. If you have any questions, ask. If you have any expertise on a topic from your training, offer to share your knowledge with others within your agency. Regardless of rank, knowledge stands on its own. It is always appreciated when someone expresses concern about an issue and offers a solution.

2. HAVE AND USE YOUR PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

You should have a PPE kit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends your PPE kit contains at a minimum:

  • Disposable examination gloves
  • Disposable isolation gown or coveralls
  • An N95 or higher-level respirator
  • Eye protection

If you do not have access to a respirator, a facemask may be an alternative. Your eye protection should completely cover your eyes on the front and side. It is crucial that you know the location of your PPE kit, how to use it and that it is properly maintained. Now is not the time to find out your kit is missing equipment or that you do not know how to use the equipment when you’re out in the field.

Always use your disposable examination gloves. Viruses can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Protect yourself by using your gloves as a barrier between surfaces and your hands. Do not reuse disposable gloves. Remove and dispose of the gloves before touching another person or as soon as practical. Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after removing your gloves.

3. SOCIAL DISTANCING

The virus causing COVID-19 is thought to spread via respiratory droplets during close contact. This can occur when an infected person sneezes or coughs and respiratory droplets enter the respiratory systems of people who are nearby. As with bloodborne pathogens, the CDC also expresses concerns about contact with other bodily fluids such as blood and mucus from an individual carrying COVID-19.

As much as possible, limit direct contact with people. That is not an easy task based on the nature of your work as a law enforcement officer. But these are not normal times. You must make wise decisions to avoid direct contact for everyone’s safety. A health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere. For example, you may want to avoid going into a business for a cup of coffee and instead opt to use a drive-through. A friendly wave may be better than stopping to talk to a group of kids. If allowed by your agency, consider handling calls for service that are not “in progress” or an “emergency” over the telephone.

If you’re responding to a situation that requires close contact, try to limit your exposure to persons who may be ill or have COVID-19 type symptoms. Allow emergency medical personnel to assess and treat patients. Wear your PPE and follow disinfecting procedures if you are required to assist emergency medical personnel.

4. WHEN YOU NEED TO GET UP CLOSE

There are times we must talk with people at their homes, businesses or other calls for service. During those calls, try to control the distance between you and the person you are speaking with. Because the virus can be spread through respiratory droplets, it is recommended you keep a 6-foot distance between yourself and others.

As you know, keeping that distance is not always possible. When you place someone under arrest, work crash scenes or are near others, your uniform and equipment may become contaminated. As a result, you need to properly clean and disinfect your equipment. Your duty belt and gear should be cleaned using a disinfecting wipe or spray before reuse. If your uniform is contaminated (such as being spit on, sneezed/coughed on or exposed to blood) change into a clean uniform. At a minimum, wear a clean uniform each day and launder your uniform after each use. Avoid shaking clothes when taking them off or before cleaning.

If you must transport a person, close any partitions between yourself and the transported person. Open any outside air vents or open a window in the driver’s area and in the rear of the vehicle to help create airflow to move air out of the patrol vehicle. Disinfect your patrol vehicle after each transport. Using a disinfecting wipe or spray, clean the passenger compartments and anything that may have been touched or exposed to respiratory droplets. Although doing this may take some extra time, it may save a great deal of time, effort, or even lives later down the road. Again, wear your PPE when there is a possible exposure to bodily fluids.

5. EXERCISE PROPER HYGIENE

The CDC recommends you wash your hands using soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. To avoid dangerous drug interactions, alcohol-based hand sanitizers should not be used if you suspect you have had direct contact with an illicit drug. Avoid touching your face. Do not wash your face until after washing your hands to avoid spreading germs or contamination from dirty hands.

6. IF YOU ARE SICK OR EXPOSED

Lastly, if you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19 or feel ill, notify your supervisor. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to contact a health professional and follow their recommendations.

The global pandemic will require a change of mindset in how you and your agency conduct daily business. It is important to limit your chance of catching or spreading the virus to your coworkers, family and the community. As law enforcement professionals, we must be available to assist those in need, maintain law and order and, as always, go home safe every day.

References:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What Law Enforcement Personnel Need to Know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), March 14, 2020.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Guidance for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for COVID-19 in the United States, March 10, 2020.


By David Belmonte | Policeone.com

About the author
David Belmonte is a content developer for Lexipol. David is a retired chief of police of the Lake Bluff (Illinois) Police Department with 31 years of law enforcement experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College of Missouri, a master’s degree from Webster University and is a graduate of the 237th session of the FBI National Academy.

COVID-19 FAQs for Law Enforcement

While there is much we still do not know about the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we do know that the donning of personal protective equipment (PPE) can help reduce the risk of infection for frontline personnel.

Below we answer some frequently asked questions about PPE and other associated issues around the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT IS AN N95 MASK?

An N95 mask is designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth, preventing airborne particles from reaching the wearer of the mask. They are commonly used in healthcare, construction or other jobs that expose workers to dust and small particles. Prior to the utilization of an N95 mask, users undergo fit testing to ensure that the mask is effective.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN N95 MASK AND A SURGICAL OR DUST COVER MASK?

N95 masks differ from surgical masks because they have a tighter fit and provide additional protection from airborne particles while a surgical mask only provides droplet protection. Surgical masks, which also might be called dust masks, are designed to protect against sneezes, fluids or splatters that may contain germs. Surgical masks don’t protect against the inhalation of germs in the air, which the N95 mask protects against.

WHEN IS AN N95 MASK USED?

Healthcare providers will use N95 masks to treat patients with respiratory symptoms (such as coughing and sneezing) to help prevent transmission of disease.

WHEN IS A SURGICAL MASK USED?

Surgical masks, which also might be called dust masks, are designed to protect against sneezes, fluids or splatters that may contain germs.

WHY DO SOME PATIENTS WEAR SURGICAL MASKS?

Patients with symptoms may be asked to wear a mask so that they reduce the number of germs they cough or sneeze onto people and surfaces near them.

DO I NEED TO SHAVE MY BEARD TO USE AN N95?

Possibly, certain facial hair prevents the N95 from fitting correctly. Facial hair should be completely contained within the N95 mask boundaries. See the image below for guidance. Surgical masks/dust masks don’t require you to be clean-shaven.

CAN I SHARE OR REUSE MY MASKS?

Normally N95 masks are intended for single-use and should not be shared. Because of the national emergency, the CDC has posted National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) guidelines for extended use and limited reuse of N95 masks. Read more on stretching your service’s supply of N95 respirators.​​

WHAT ARE VENTILATORS?

Ventilators are machines that breathe automatically for a patient while they are sedated. They are used in ICUs when patients are unable to get enough oxygen on their own and during surgery when a patient is under anesthesia.

WHY DO HOSPITALS NEED MORE VENTILATORS?

COVID-19 targets the lungs, leading to complications like pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, conditions which may cause a patient to need a ventilator to breathe for them while their body is fighting the infection.

Currently, hospitals have ventilators proportional to the number of beds they have. For example, a 150-bed hospital may have 20 ventilators. This has worked so far because not every hospitalized patient needs a ventilator but if a lot of patients who need respiratory support are admitted, eventually there won’t be enough machines for every patient. If large numbers of patients are admitted to the hospital all at once, the system will get overwhelmed.

WHAT IS EXPONENTIAL GROWTH?

Exponential growth is growth that increases even more rapidly the more cases that are present. Therefore, if cases are doubling every day, 1 person will become 2, then 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024 and so on.

WHY DOES EXPONENTIAL GROWTH MATTER?

Small numbers will become much larger in a short period of time without any intervention. For example, one infected person will lead to one hundred and twenty-eight in a week. Then in two weeks, there will be 16,384 sick people.

What questions do you have about protecting your health during the COVID-19 pandemic? Email editor@policeone.com.

By Marianne Meyers | Policeone.com
​About the author: ​Marianne Meyers, BS, is a third-year medical student at the University of Washington School of Medicine interested in pursuing emergency medicine. Previously, she was a member of the Santa Clara University collegiate EMS squad where she received her B.S. in Public Health Science. Additionally, she has worked with the King County Public Health Department in Seattle, Washington studying EMT naloxone administration.
 
References​: ​World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): situation report, 46, March 6, 2020.

FBI Sees Rise in Fraud Schemes Related to Coronavirus Pandemic

Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them. Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or oth​​er benefits. The FBI advises you to be on the lookout for the following:

Fake CDC Emails. Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organizations claiming to offer information on the virus. Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize. Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment. Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received.

Phishing Emails. Look out for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money. Phishing emails may also claim to be related to:

  • Charitable contributions
  • General financial relief
  • Airline carrier refunds
  • Fake cures and vaccines
  • Fake testing kit

Counterfeit Treatments or Equipment. Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves. More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh. You can also find information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, www.fda.gov, and the Environmental Protection Agency website, www.epa.gov. Report counterfeit products at www.ic3.gov and to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at iprcenter.gov.

If you are looking for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, the CDC has posted extensive guidance and information that is updated frequently. The best sources for authoritative information on COVID-19 are www.cdc.gov and www.coronavirus.gov. You may also consult your primary care physician for guidance.

The FBI is reminding you to always use good cyber hygiene and security measures. By remembering the following tips, you can protect yourself and help stop criminal activity:

  • Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
  • Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
  • Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
  • Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a “.gov” ends in .com” instead).

If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Missouri House Committee Considers Strengthening Charges for Suspects who Fuel High-Speed Chases

State Representative Jeff Shawan, R-Poplar Bluff, is proposing to crank up the charge for individuals who run from law enforcement – triggering a high-speed chase.

Under current law, bolting from officers is a misdemeanor. Shawan wants the suspects to face ​​a class C to E felony, depending on the severity of the crime and number of times the act is committed.

During a public hearing last month, Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber of western Missouri says the current punishment is not enough.

“It’s got to be addressed. It’s got to be addressed now,” he says. “Because we’re only rolling the dice until these people actually hurt or kill someone.”

Van Buren Police Chief Alonzo Bradwell of southeast Missouri agrees with Weber.

“The ones that we do catch always say ‘If we could’ve just got away from you, even if you would’ve found us, it would’ve just been a misdemeanor.’ They’re more emboldened to run from us and our resources in a small community like that are very limited,” he say.

Bob Adams, a former law enforcement officer and Shawan’s cousin, says his daughter was killed in 1998 after a 14-year-old suspect slammed a stolen vehicle into hers. He says the boy was being chased by a rookie officer going 110 miles per hour through the heart of southeast Missouri’s Jackson.

“This was a tragic accident in a number of ways,” he says as his voice cracks. “It affected my family just profoundly. I can’t tell you how deeply it bothered us for a very long time.”

No one spoke in opposition to the proposal. The Missouri House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety is considering House Bill 1620 and has not yet voted on the plan.

By Alisa Nelson | Missourinet

Don’t Respond to Letter from MSA President David Parrish

If you received an email recently from Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, don’t respond!

It’s a hoax.

The email states:

Hello (Recipient),

Are you available to assist? I am out of the State now and I’ve got credence in you to take care of this.I would have called your phone but I presently do not have access to my mobile phone.
Missouri Sheriffs’ Association needs some gift cards for donation to Veterans at Hospice and Palliative care units for preventive items against Corona Disease( COVID 19).
 

I have decided to make it a personal duty. I will be responsible for the reimbursement.

 

David Parrish

President
 
The sending email address shows up as ref_pres@jobkonsult.info. 
 
MSA Executive Director Kevin Merritt said recipients should delete the email without responding.

Missouri Supreme Court Responds to the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic

​​On March 13, 2020, national and state emergencies were declared following the classification of COVID-19 as a pandemic.  In response, the Supreme Court of Missouri announces the implementation of the following precautionary measures to combat the spread of the disease to the public and the employees of the Missouri judiciary.

The courts of the State of Missouri shall remain open.  Nevertheless, pursuant to this Court’s constitutional authority to supervise the administration of the state judicial system, see Mo. Const. art. V, §§ 4.1, 8, the Supreme Court of Missouri hereby suspends all in-person proceedings in all appellate and circuit courts – including all associate, family, juvenile, municipal, and probate divisions.  The suspension will last from Tuesday, March 17, 2020, through Friday, April 3, 2020, and may be extended by order of this Court as circumstances may warrant.

The suspension of in-person proceedings is subject to the following exceptions:

Proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants and juveniles;
Proceedings in which civil or criminal jury trials are already in progress as of March 16, 2020;
Proceedings pursuant to chapter 455 pertaining to orders of protection;
Proceedings related to emergency child custody orders;
Proceedings related to petitions for temporary restraining orders or other forms of temporary injunctive relief;
Proceedings related to emergency mental health orders;
Proceedings pursuant to Chapter 475 for emergency guardianship or conservatorship;
Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency;
Oral arguments regarding time-sensitive matters; and
Other exceptions approved by the Chief Justice of this Court.

The presiding judge of each circuit court and the chief judges of each appellate court are authorized to determine the manner in which the listed in-person exceptions are to be conducted.  Any proceedings conducted in-person shall be limited to the attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, and other individuals necessary to the proceedings as determined by the judge presiding over the proceedings.  The judge presiding over such proceedings has the discretion to exercise his or her discretion in excusing jurors or other individuals that cannot or should not appear as a result of risks associated with COVID-19.

All judges and court clerks are encouraged to utilize all available technologies – including e-mail, teleconferencing, and video conferencing – to further limit in-person courtroom appearances.  Any local, criminal, or civil rules that would impede a court clerk or judge’s ability to utilize such technologies are hereby suspended until April 3, 2020, and may be extended by order of this Court as circumstances may warrant.

This order does not affect a court’s ability to consider or rule on any matter that does not require an in-person court proceeding.  Likewise, this order does not affect any required filing deadlines through Missouri’s e-filing system.  During the suspension, each circuit and appellate court should consider adopting measures for ensuring timely filing by pro se litigants that lack access to Missouri’s e-filing system.

Despite the suspension of in-person court proceedings, Missouri courts still must continue to carry out the core, constitutional functions of the Missouri judiciary as prescribed by law and continue to uphold the constitutional rights of litigants seeking redress in any Missouri court. Each courthouse should work with local law enforcement and county agencies to ensure that, to the extent possible, courthouses remain accessible to carry out essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings.  

If it becomes necessary to close any courthouse during the suspension period, the courthouse shall develop procedures for ensuring the court remains accessible by telephone and e-mail to the extent possible during regular business hours.  The Supreme Court of Missouri should be notified immediately of the closing of any courthouse, and notice of such closings should be disseminated to the local media and posted on the courthouse doors.

Furthermore, for the health and safety of its employees, each court is instructed to post an order to the courthouse doors prohibiting access to the premises for individuals that have been exposed to or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.  The posting should list necessary contact information for individuals not authorized to enter the premises to have remote access to the administration of justice.  Attached to this order is a recommended order for posting at each court.  The order should contain the same substantive information but should be modified to include local contact information.  

Additionally, any non-essential travel by judicial employees for work-related functions is hereby suspended.  This includes travel for purposes of participating in Supreme Court committee meetings.  If possible, such meetings should be conducted by teleconferencing or rescheduled to a later date.

This order is intended to be interpreted broadly for protection of the public from the risks associated with COVID-19.  

Missouri Postpones April 7 Municipal Elections

Missouri’s municipal elections slated for April 7 have been postponed a month.

Gov. Mike Parson today signed an executive order rescheduling the elections for June 2, according to a news release from his office. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft requested the delay in response to the governor’s earlier state of emergency declaration concerning the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The new executive order declares that ballots already printed for the April 7 election may be used at the postponed date of June 2. Voters who have attained the age of 18 by April 7 will be allowed to cast a ballot.

“Given the growing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the large number of people elections attract, postponing Missouri’s municipal elections is a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters,” Parson stated. “Postponing an election is not easy, but we are all in this together.”

“I deeply appreciate Gov. Parson’s quick approval and am thankful to the local election authorities your county clerks and boards of election who have worked through developing health concerns to find a unified and secure means of implementing our next election,” stated Ashcroft. “Missouri has 116 separate election authorities, almost all who are elected in their own right, and we have come together to help protect Missouri voters. These are difficult times, but I am grateful for how we have responded, worked together and come to a resolution that helps every single Missouri voter.”

According to the news release, Section 44.100, RSMo, provides that during a state of emergency, the governor is authorized to “waive or suspend the operation of any statutory requirement or administrative rule prescribing procedures for conducting state business, where strict compliance with such requirements and rules would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action by the department of health and senior services to respond to a declared emergency or increased health threat to the population.”

The executive order requires local election authorities to publish notice of the new election date. In addition, it states:

  • The closing date to register to vote in this election remains March 11.
  • The deadline for filing as a write-in candidate for office remains March 27 at 5 p.m.
  • The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot shall be May 20.
  • A public test of voting equipment shall be completed no later than June 1.
  • In-person absentee ballots may be cast until 5 p.m. on June 1.
  • The deadline by which absentee ballots must be received by the election authority shall be 7 p.m. on June 2.
  • Military and overseas voters must request a ballot from an election authority by 5 p.m. on May 29, and the deadline for local election authorities to make ballots available to such voters is April 18. Military and overseas ballots must be received by the election authority by June 5.

Local election authorities are also directed to post information on their website, use social media if available, issue press release, conduct public appearances, and directly contact stakeholders such as candidates.

 Story and photo by the News Tribune

Sheriffs Carry the Concerns of their Citizens to the Capitol

Fifty-some sheriffs visited the state capitol March 12 to remind lawmakers that the challenges facing the sheriffs are real, that something needs to be done and that they need legislators’ help to make the needed changes.

​​Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, the president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, told the group of legislators and media representatives gathered in the House of Representatives Lounge that 2019 may go down in history as one of the worst years for sheriffs who are attempting to enforce the rule of law and protect the local law-abiding tax payers they serve.

“Sheriffs have been concerned many years – 2019 was just the culmination that the justice system has become too offender-centered. Some well-intentioned people have become too focused on those committing the crimes while not necessarily focusing on the neighborhoods they are affecting and the victims the sheriffs are committed to fighting for,” he said.

Sheriff Parrish summarized some of the challenges they’re facing:

▪ In March, 2019, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that board bills should not be considered court costs – even though that had been the practice for 100 years.

▪ The Missouri Bond Reform, which was ordered December 2018 and became effective July 1, 2019, prohibits judges from keeping defendants in jail if they can’t afford bail. Instead, those defendants, many of whom are “career criminals,” are to be released on their own signature with only a ticket, which, according to sheriffs, allows them to continue to victimize their communities.

▪ State statute requires sheriffs to accept prisoners or face a misdemeanor, and the state is to reimburse counties $22.58 per day for holding those prisoners. However, Missouri is falling further and further behind in paying the jail per diems. As of December 2019, the state owed counties – and ultimately county taxpayers – an estimated $33.4 million.

▪ Sheriffs are at odds with the Missouri Department of Corrections because those sheriffs believe once an offender is sentenced to prison, he or she should not on Day 1 be considered for conditional early release. In many cases, inmates are serving one to three months per year sentenced.

Sheriff Parrish said they hear too often “’What is wrong with society?’ and ‘Why doesn’t society do more for the career criminal?’ We say they can’t afford court costs, we say they can’t afford the board bill, we say they can’t be in jail very long instead of just reminding ourselves that there’s a very simple way – a very simple way – to not have to do those things. Don’t violate the law. I know our constituents believe that if someone does violate the law, we should be firm and fair but also hold them accountable.”

Cape Girardeau County Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson went into more detail about jail per diems.

“We, as sheriffs, hear from our citizens every day about how we are handling our budgets – their tax dollars,” she said, reminding those present that their citizens, their constituents, their voters were the same citizens, constituents and voters that the legislators represent. “And they want to know how you are handling their tax dollars. When the state does not pay its bills, it affects not only the sheriffs but the citizens in the lost revenues to our communities.”

Sheriff Dickerson explained that although the rate has fluctuated over the years, since 1976, the state, under Missouri Statute 221.105 has paid per diem for all inmates housed in county jails.

“The state acknowledges that their daily cost for handling inmates is $65 a day. The state allows its own employees a per diem for meals of $34 a day. But the per diem of inmates is just $22.58. The state is also using local jails to hold parole offenders. It used to be that if someone violated their parole, they immediately went back to the Department of Corrections. Today those offenders are staying in the county jails waiting on hearings, waiting on the steps the Department of Corrections will take many times to be released back into the community without any further sentencing or time.”

Sheriff Dickerson also said 1996 was the last time the Missouri legislature and the governor’s office officially recognized that public safety is a partnership between the local, county and state government. Since that time, funding has been directed at other programs, causing the arrearage to grow. She produced a study conducted in 2010 by the National Association of Counties refuting DOC statements that Missouri is the only state that charges room and board. Instead, although different formulas are used, every state pays per diem. She also said a 2015 program evaluation of county per diem payments completed by the DOC showed they had studied the issue, although its officials claimed otherwise.

“The state funding must be appropriated to pay the bills owed by the state and the per diem should be the responsibility of the state,” she said.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott spoke next, discussing concerns about the direction taken by the DOC and the Division of Probation and Parole.

“Probation issues are a continued failure from the top of this organization. Our local P&P officers’ hands are being tied by not being able to recommend revocation. I talked to our circuit judge about three hours ago. He told me he sees offenders with 15 to 20 violations with no recommendation for revocation from Probation and Parole. We have proof that offenders are going to the P&P office, taking urine tests, showing positive for methamphetamine, then they simply walk out the door, get into a vehicle and drive off. This is a public safety issue. This puts Missouri’s citizens’ lives in danger every day,” he said, reiterating that those scenarios were not the fault of the P&P officer but rather from leadership in the DOC.

Sheriff Arnott also criticized the practice of rewarding parolees with gift cards for showing up on time at appointments.

“This is ridiculous! Do you know what the reward is? Not being locked up in jail and not going to prison. This philosophy has to change. If we want to hand out gift cards, let’s give them to Missourians who have been victimized – not criminals. We must remember that our entire justice system is based around taking care of victims. We want our message to be clear. Missouri’s sheriffs will continue to be vigilant and tough on crime but legislators, we need your assistance to change the philosophy of this department,” he said.

Johnson County Sheriff Scott Munsterman addressed the group next, talking about bond reform.

“In the reform, they labeled drugs and drug offenders as ‘non-violent crime.’ I disagree. Drug offenders are not only a danger to themselves, they are also a danger to the communities we represent. During investigations of crimes in our communities, we’re dealing with drug offenders every day and see that they’re tied in with burglaries, car larcenies, and simple property crimes. Drug offenders are utilizing citizens’ assets to help supplement their addiction,” he said, adding that although they arrest the offenders, reforms require sheriffs to simply issue a summons to appear in court and then release them back into the community where they continue to reoffend.

And individuals are not following through and showing up in court. Sheriff Munsterman said since the new rules went into effect, the failure to appear rate in Johnson County has increased 28 percent. In neighboring Cass County, that number jumped 48 percent.

He closed by sharing a statement from a friend that “non-violent” does not mean “non-dangerous,” stressing that those who were breaking into cars and homes to steal and supplement their drug addictions were dangerous and needed to be behind bars.

“To sum up, we are here to protect the local law-abiding tax payer,” Sheriff Parrish said, adding that sheriffs recognize and respect those who are assisting offenders in becoming better citizens. “But the pendulum has swung too far. It’s very simple to not have to follow any guidelines. Follow the law.”
 
By Nancy Zoellner