Speaker To Address Kids’ Access To Online Porn, At Camdenton Event On Tuesday

Concerned Women for America (CWA) of Missouri will host CWA of Missouri Legislative Liaison, Alissa Johnson at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27 at the Key Gathering Place, 1160 S. Business Route 5, Camdenton, Mo. Johnson will speak on the Protect Young Minds Online Act (PYMOA).

Alissa leads a CWA of Missouri legislative team at the Missouri State Capitol in advocating for the passage of PYMOA – legislation that will require internet service providers in the state to add a filter to protect children from viewing pornography/obscenity online. This legislation is the first and only of its kind and has been vetted and supported by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. 

More than forty years ago, Missouri lawmakers created a Missouri statute that would make furnishing pornographic material to minors a Class A misdemeanor. The statute has never been updated to include the internet. Presently, minors are accessing pornography/obscenity via the internet on their cell phones, home computers, friends’ laptops/tablets, etc. The PYMOA will be a partial remedy for that.

Governor Parson Announces $4 Million in New Grant Programs to Combat Crimes Against Children and Provide Additional Support to Crime Victim Service Agencies

Governor Mike Parson announced $4 million in new grant opportunities to combat crimes against children and to provide additional funding to agencies that provide services to crime victims.

“The last two years have created hardships and strained resources across the nation, but the reported rise in crimes affecting children and the difficulties experienced by agencies that provide vital services to crime victims is most concerning,” Governor Parson said. “These new grant programs will allow us to better investigate and prosecute criminals who victimize children and support domestic violence service agencies and child advocacy centers who serve our most vulnerable citizens and help bring criminals to justice.”

A total of $2 million in grant opportunities is being made available to assist local law enforcement and prosecutors to combat crimes against children, which rose in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional $2 million in grant opportunities is being made available to support crime victim service agencies, which have reported increases in service referrals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two competitive grants will utilize funds previously allocated to Missouri from the federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program (CESF). The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance has approved the reallocation of CESF program funds to meet emergent needs that were not apparent when the CESF opportunity was originally made available. There is no local match required to access the funding. The grants will be administered by the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The funding opportunity for the Crimes Against Children/Sex Crimes Grant is expected to open August 1, 2021. Projects may include hiring additional staff to investigate, prosecute, and detect crimes against children.  

The funding opportunity for the Victims of Crime Grant is expected to open September 1, 2021. Projects may include providing resource assistance to domestic violence service agencies and child advocacy centers and aiding other entities serving victims from vulnerable populations adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Bill Seeks To Protect Qualified Immunity For Cops To Prevent Frivolous Lawsuits

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22) on July 15, unveiled details of her legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Protection Act, that protects qualified immunity for police officers serving at the state and local level. 

Tenney’s bill would prevent state and local governments that remove qualified immunity protections for police from applying for certain federal grants. 

Tenney has also released a comprehensive plan to support law enforcement officers and unite our communities by keeping illegal firearms off the street, boosting community-based policing, and supporting policies that provide law enforcement officers with the tools and resources to do their jobs.

“Our Law Enforcement Officers put their lives on the line every day at great personal risk. In the last year alone, police have faced unprecedented challenges like the pandemic and increasing crime. Accountability and transparency are vital, but removing qualified immunity achieves neither. It opens police officers to unfair and frivolous attacks simply for doing their jobs. At a time when activists and politicians in Washington are demonizing and defunding our police, I’m honored to stand with them to deliver the resources and support to keep our communities safe,” said Congresswoman Tenney.

The past two years have marked the deadliest period for law enforcement in decades. In 2020 alone, 264 police officers died in the line of duty. So far this year, at least 148 officers have tragically died. 

Tenney was joined at the announcement by NY Assemblyman John Salka,Madison County Sheriff Todd Hood, Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton, Cortland County Undersheriff Budd Rigg, Sherrill Police Chief Rob Drake, Oneida County Undersheriff Joe Lisi, City of Cortland Police Chief Paul Sandy, City of Oneida Police Chief John Little and Deputy Chief Steven Lowell, City of Sherill and Camden Police Department Officer Dan Salce, Canastota Interim Chief of Police Shawn Barton, Madison County Chief Assistant District Attorney Bob Mascari, and Madison County Chairman John Becker. 

“I proudly support this legislation, which protects law enforcement officers and allows them to do their job,”said Salka. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line each day to protect our communities. As crime rates surge across the state, it is of the utmost importance that we defend our police to ensure they are allowed to do their jobs and continue to keep our communities safe.”

 “The men and women in law enforcement have sworn an oath to protect and serve. But we are facing unprecedented threats every day that hinder that. The rise in violent crimes, the defund the police movement, and New York State’s Bail Reform law all make our jobs more dangerous and tie our hands. This legislation will help protect our officers from frivolous attacks, allowing us to do our jobs to protect our community. At the same time make sure those who need to be held accountable, will be,” said Sheriff Hood. 

Details of the Local Law Enforcement Protection Act

  • Ensures all states follow the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Saucier v. Katz, which found that a law enforcement officer can only be found liable in civil suits if the officer’s conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right.
     
  • In order to apply for and receive specified federal grants, states and localities must certify that it is in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision and has not taken steps to limit qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. 
     
  • A jurisdiction that is unable to make such certification will be ineligible for funding. Any jurisdiction that improperly certifies compliance will be subject to legal action. 
     
  • This new requirement will apply to the following federal grant programs: 
    • Community Development Block Grant Program
    • USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

Governor Signs Senate Bill 53

A number of sheriffs were on-hand yesterday when Governor Parson signed Senate Bill 53. We thank everyone for their hard work on this bill, especially Senator Brian Williams, Democrat from District 14, Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, Republican from District 34 and Representative Lane Roberts, Republican District 162.

Highlights of the bill include:

Jail and Corrections staff must ensure that an appropriate quantity of feminine hygiene products are available at no cost to female persons while in custody;

Prosecutors may file a motion to vacate or set aside the judgment at any time if he or she has information that the convicted person may be innocent or may have been erroneously convicted;

Creation of the offense of sexual conduct in the course of public duty;

A requirement that the chief executive officer of each law enforcement agency shall, prior to commissioning any peace officer, request a certified copy from the director of the Department of Public Safety, information they have on file concerning complaints and actions against a peace officer’s license;

The mandate that all peace officers submit to being fingerprinted on or before January 1, 2022, and at any time a peace officer is commissioned (hired) with a different law enforcement agency, for the purpose of a criminal history background check and enrollment in the state and federal Rap Back programs. Enrollment in these programs allows law enforcement agencies to be notified if an officer is fingerprinted basically anywhere in the country;

A requirement that all peace officers shall be required to meet with a program service provider once every three to five years for a mental health check-in;

Restrictions on the use of a respiratory choke-hold where that no law enforcement officer shall not knowingly use a respiratory choke-hold unless the use is in defense of the officer or another from serious physical injury or death;

Starting on March 1, 2022, and at least annually thereafter, each law enforcement agency shall collect and report local data on use-of-force incidents involving peace officers to the National Use of Force Data Collection as well as to the Missouri Department of Public Safety; and

The Sheriff’s salary has now been tired to a percentage of that of the Associate Circuit Judge.

Kevin Merritt
Executive Director
Missouri Sheriffs’ Association
Missouri Sheriff’s United
6605 Business 50 West
Jefferson City, MO 65109
Email: kevin@mosheriffs.com

Fair Access Missouri Files Petition to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Missouri May Soon Hire More Public Defenders

​Story by Christina Randall, Frances Lin for Ozarks First

 

After being understaffed for decades Missouri will finally hire more public defenders.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 12 which will add 53 new public attorneys to the system.

Director Mary Fox says the Public Defender System started in the 1980s.

“Case numbers continued to go up, and public defender system since the 1990s, never received a substantially large number of attorneys,” said Fox. ” So this will have a significant impact o​​n our offices and the staff.”

In addition, it can be life-changing for the 800 people currently on the waiting list.

“Our goal is by adding additional staff, we can reduce the individual attorney’s caseloads to a level where they can provide effective assistance of counsel,” said Fox.

This could also take some of the pressure off of the current attorney’s shoulders.

“We have excellent attorneys in the system, but when you have too many cases, things will always fall through the cracks,” said Fox.

Fox says a public defender receives many benefits.

“Salary starts in the mid-’40s, and our attorneys and all of our staff in our system are state employees, we have excellent benefits as state employees,” said Fox. ” Health insurance, life insurance, annual leave, sick time.”

The system also pays for bar dues and provides continuing legal education required by the Supreme Court.

“We’re very grateful to the legislature and the governor and we are hopeful that with the addition of these attorneys, we will be able to move forward and fulfill the constitutional mandate that we have been given,” said Fox.

Fox says their system will start to make offers as soon as Governor parson signs the bill.

Missouri Supreme Court: Collecting Court Fees To Fund Sheriffs’ Retirement Is Unconstitutional

By N​ick Sibilla, Senior Contributor​ for Forbes ​

A court fee created to raise revenue for the state’s sheriff retirement fund was unanimously struck down as an unconstitutional “sale” of justice by the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this month. Ever since its enactment in 1983, Missouri had imposed a $3 surcharge on every circuit court criminal case, which financed the Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System. Three decades later, many municipal courts, which handle traffic violations, began to assess the fee as well. 

Among those ensnared by the surcharge were Daven Fowler and Jerry Keller, who were pulled over for speeding in May 2017 in Kansas City. The two men pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay court costs of $223.50. Both men decided to challenge the $3 surcharge as unconstitutional, but their case was initially dismissed by the circuit court in Jackson County.

On appeal, the two had better luck. Siding with the drivers, the Missouri Supreme Court mainly relied on a 1986 ruling that invalidated a $4 court surcharge levied to provide “additional compensation to county officials (including county sheriffs) if those officials attended a certain training program.” In Harrison v. Monroe Countythe Missouri Supreme Court declared that because “civil court costs are collected to enhance the compensation of officials of the executive department of county government,” those fees impose “unreasonable impediments to access to justice” in violation of the state constitution.

Inspired by Magna Carta, the Missouri Constitution guarantees “that the courts of justice shall be open to every person, and certain remedy afforded for every injury to person, property or character, and that right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” At least 14 other states have similar provisions in their own constitutions.

“Applying Harrison’s bright-line rule,” the court in Fowler v. Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System declared that the $3 surcharge is not “reasonably related to the expense of the administration of justice” and similarly unconstitutional. Like the statute struck down in 1986, the $3 surcharge “requires the collection of a court cost used to enhance the compensation of executive department officials—retired county sheriffs.”

“The Missouri Supreme Court reached the right decision here,” Brian Madden, an attorney for Fowler and Keller, told the Kansas City Star. “As for next steps, we have a pending class certification motion seeking recovery of the $3 surcharge for Missouri citizens who paid the unconstitutional surcharge in Missouri municipal courts.”

Given that courts have been collecting the surcharge for years, if the class action is certified, the lawsuit could potentially lead to millions of dollars refunded to hundreds of thousands of Missourians. 

According to the system’s annual report, over the past five years, court fees, euphemistically described as “non-employer contributions,” brought in more than $2.1 million a year on average, while the fiduciary net position was nearly $51.5 million at the end of 2020, Little wonder then that the system views court fees as providing “necessary revenue to finance retirement benefits.”

“The full effect of the court’s ruling is unclear,” Jeff Padgett, the executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System said in a statement. “While we all are disappointed by this ruling, the board members and I are committed to making sure that current and retired Missouri sheriffs receive the benefits they have earned.”

Missouri governor, AG Send Defiant Response to Justice Department Over Gun Law

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Missouri Governor Mike Parson

 
Story By Summer Ballentine (Associated Press)​ for ​KSDK

Missouri’s Republican governor and attorney general said in a defiant letter to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday that they stand by the state’s new law that would ban police from enforcing federal gun rules.

Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote that they still plan to enforce the new law, which Parson signed Saturday. The measure would penalize local police departments if their officers​​ enforce federal gun laws.

Schmitt and Parson wrote that they will “fight tooth and nail” to defend the right to own guns as spelled out in the state constitution and the new law.

“We will not tolerate any attempts by the federal government to deprive Missourians of this critical civil right,” they wrote.

In a letter sent Wednesday night and obtained by The Associated Press, Justice Department officials pointed out that federal law trumps state law under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

Brian Boynton, an acting assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in the letter that Missouri’s law threatens to disrupt the working relationship between federal and local law enforcement and noted that the state receives federal grants and technical assistance.

Prosecutors in Missouri’s attorney general’s office have already withdrawn from nearly two dozen federal drug, gun and carjacking cases in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They had been working with federal counterparts as part of the Safer Streets initiative that Schmitt touted in 2019. Attorneys from Schmitt’s office were deputized as assistant U.S. attorneys to help prosecute violent crimes.

Missouri’s new law would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce federal gun laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer.

Boynton said Missouri’s law “conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulation” and that federal law would supersede the state’s new statute. He said federal agents and the U.S. attorney’s offices in the state would continue to enforce all federal firearms laws and regulations. He asked that Parson and Schmitt clarify the law and how it would work in a response by Friday.

Republican lawmakers who pushed Missouri’s new law said they were motivated by the potential for more restrictive gun laws under Democratic President Joe Biden. But state Democrats argued that it is unconstitutional and would likely get overturned if challenged in court.

Similar bills were introduced in more than a dozen other states this year, including Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa. In Texas, the governor has called for the state to become a so-called Second Amendment sanctuary.

Several states passed similar laws under then-president Barack Obama, though judges have ruled against them.

Justice Department Issues Proposed Rule and Model Legislation to Reduce Gun Violence

​From the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs:  New Steps Would Enhance Enforcement of the National Firearms Act and Aid States in Drafting “Extreme Risk Protection Order” Laws

 

Today, the Department of Justice announced two new steps to help address the continuing epidemic of gun violence affecting communities across the country.

First, the department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that makes clear that when individuals use accessories to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles, they must comply with the heightened regulations on those dangerous and easily concealable weapons.

Second, the department published model legislation to help states craft their own “extreme risk protection order” laws, sometimes called “red flag” laws. By sending the proposed rule to the Federal Register and publishing the model legislation today, the department has met the deadlines that the Attorney General announced alongside President Biden in April. 

“The Justice Department is determined to take concrete steps to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in our communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today we continue to deliver on our promise to help save lives while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. We welcome the opportunity to work with communities in the weeks and months ahead in our shared commitment to end gun violence.”

The department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would make clear that the statutory restrictions on short-barreled rifles apply to pistols that are equipped with certain stabilizing braces and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

The National Firearms Act imposes heightened regulations on short-barreled rifles because they are easily concealable, can cause great damage, and are more likely to be used to commit crimes. But companies now sell accessories that make it easy for people to convert pistols into these more dangerous weapons without going through the statute’s background check and registration requirements.

These requirements are important public safety measures because they regulate the transfer of these dangerous weapons and help ensure they do not end up in the wrong hands. The proposed rule would clarify when these attached accessories convert pistols into weapons covered by these heightened regulations.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to submit comments.  To view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, please see here.

The department also published model legislation and detailed commentary that will make it easier for states to craft “extreme risk protection orders” authorizing courts to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms.

By allowing family members or law e​​nforcement to intervene and to petition for these orders before warning signs turn into tragedy, “extreme risk protection orders” can save lives. They are also an evidence-based approach to the problem.

The model legislation, developed after consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, provides a framework that will help more states enact these sensible laws.

To read the model legislation, please see here.

To learn more about the rulemaking process, please see here.

 

Photo from gunsmagazine.com

Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

​​HudsonAlpha, a genome sequencing lab in Alabama that has worked on more than 1,000 forensic genealogy cases. Photo credit…Wes Frazer for The New York Times

 

Story by Virginia Hughes​ for the New York Times​

New laws in Maryland and Montana are the first in the nation to restrict law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy, the DNA matching technique that in 2018 identified the Golden State Killer, in an effort to ensure the genetic privacy of the accused and their relatives.

Beginning on Oct. 1, investigators working on Maryland cases will need a judge’s signoff before using the method, in which a “profile” of thousands of DNA markers from a crime scene is uploaded to genealogy websites to find relatives of the culprit. The new law, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, also dictates that the technique be used only for serious crimes, such as murder and sexual assault. And it states that investigators may only use websites with strict policies around user consent.

Montana’s new law, sponsored by a Republican, is narrower, requiring that government investigators obtain a search warrant before using a consumer DNA database, unless the consumer has waived the right to privacy.

The laws “demonstrate that people across the political spectrum find law enforcement use of consumer genetic data chilling, concerning and privacy-invasive,” said Natalie Ram, a law professor at the University of Maryland who championed the Maryland law. “I hope to see more states embrace robust regulation of this law enforcement technique in the future.”

Privacy advocates like Ms. Ram have been worried about genetic genealogy since 2018, when it was used to great fanfare to reveal the identity of the Golden State Killer, who murdered 13 people and raped dozens of women in the 1970s and ’80s. After matching the killer’s DNA to entries in two large genealogy databases, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, investigators in California identified some of the culprit’s cousins, and then spent months building his family tree to deduce his name — Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. — and arrest him.

Ms. Ram subsequently published an article in a law journal calling on Maryland lawmakers to act against the practice. Granting police access to a suspect’s genome, she argued, including markers of sensitive health information, was akin to an unreasonable search, which i​​s banned by the Fourth Amendment. In 2019, she testified to a state House committee after a delegate, Charles Sydnor, who is now a state senator, introduced legislation that would have banned the method outright.
The ban did not pass. But it prompted discussions with legal experts, public defenders, prosecutors and police officers that led to a compromise bill, which passed unanimously this term in the state House and Senate.

“This bill strikes a balance between this very important technology to identify people that do the very worst things to our Marylanders, yet it balances that against the privacy concerns and the trust that we need from the public,” John Fitzgerald, the chief of the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, testified to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee in February.

But some experts said that the law could put a damper on the technology’s use in Maryland. For one thing, the law states that by 2024, genealogists working on such cases must be professionally certified — a credential that does not yet exist.

Another sticky provision: Investigators may use only genealogy companies that have explicitly informed the public and their customers that law enforcement uses their databases, and that have asked for their customers’ consent to participate. Currently, customers of GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are given a choice about whether to participate in these searches. But the companies provide little information about what those searches entail, and the opt-in settings are turned on by default.

“We know well that most people do not read these kinds of forms closely,” Ms. Ram said. “This is likely to generate unwitting inclusion rather than actual consent.”

Unlike 23andMe and Ancestry, which have kept their immense genetic databases unavailable to law enforcement without a court order, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are eager to cooperate. If other states do not follow Maryland’s lead, it seems unlikely that either company would make changes that would shrink the pool of DNA profiles available for these searches. Both companies said in statements that they had no plans to update their policies.

“If the rest of the nation doesn’t have that requirement, why would they bow to Maryland’s needs?” said Paul Holes, a critic of the bill and a retired cold-case investigator who was on the team that found Mr. DeAngelo. “Now they’re serving the greater good at the expense of one state.”

In the three years since Mr. Holes’s team found Mr. DeAngelo, likely several hundred cases, many of them decades old, have been solved nationwide with genetic genealogy. The method has been used to solve crimes, exonerate the innocent and find the names of unidentified remains. The Defense Department may use the technique to identify World War II soldiers.

In some cases, customers may never know that the DNA markers they have uploaded into a database are being used by the police to identify culprits — or that using the database may bring trouble to their relatives. In 2018, police in Orlando, Fla., asked a woman for a DNA test, telling her that they believed she was related to a dead person they were trying to identify. She complied, only to find out that they were investigating her son, who was subsequently arrested and charged with murder.

In other cases, detectives might surreptitiously collect the DNA of a suspect’s relative by testing an object that the relative discarded in the trash.

Maryland’s new law states that when police officers test the DNA of “third parties” — people other than the suspect — they must get consent in writing first, unless a judge approves deceptive collection.

Investigators cannot use any of the genetic information collected, whether from the suspect or third parties, to learn about a person’s psychological traits or disease predispositions. At the end of the investigation, all of the genetic and genealogical records that were created for it must be deleted from databases.

And perhaps most consequential, Maryland investigators interested in genetic genealogy must first try their luck with a government-run DNA database, called Codis, whose profiles use far fewer genetic markers.

Mr. Holes said that this part of the law could have tragic consequences. For old cases, he pointed out, DNA evidence is often highly degraded and fragile, and every DNA test consumes some of that precious sample. “In essence, the statute could potentially cause me to kill my case,” he said. And given the speed that DNA technology evolves, he added, it is unwise for a law to mandate use of any particular kind of test.

But other experts called this provision crucial, because the potential privacy breach is far more severe for genetic genealogy, which gives law enforcement access to hundreds of thousands of genetic markers, than it is for Codis, which uses only about two dozen markers.

These searches are “the equivalent of the government going through all of your medical records and all of your family records just to identify you,” said Leah Larkin, a genetic genealogist who runs a consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area that is largely focused on helping adoptees and others find their biological relatives. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how much is in your genetic data.”