Friday, December 23, 2016

Defying Police 'Do Not Cross' Line Would Be a Crime Under Proposed Missouri Bill

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 6:52 AM

click to enlarge In Missouri, this is just a polite suggestion. - PHOTO VIA FLICKR/TONY WEBSTER

Ignoring a strip of "Do Not Cross" police tape in front of a crime scene is good way to piss off some cops, but — surprisingly — you can't be criminally charged for it under current Missouri law.

"Right now, it's pretty much a request," says state Representative Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph). That would change under a bill Higdon has pre-filed for the next legislative session. If passed, the bill would make disobeying a police barricade or line punishable by a Class A misdemeanor.

The bill's provisions cover a wide array of possible scenarios where police might need to block off an area from the public, including fires, car accidents and riots. Police would be empowered to set up clearly marked barricades — and make arrests — in the case of "any emergency situations where life, limb, or property may be endangered or may cause persons to collect" in public spaces like streets, parking lots or highways.

That last line, however, might give Ferguson protesters flashbacks. During the protests that swept through the north county suburb in 2014, police departments were roundly criticized for making arbitrary arrests. Conceivably, under Higdon's bill, police officers responding to a protest would now have an additional basis to arrest and charge the participants.

Higdon says he didn't write the bill with protests in mind. Still, he says the law would have to applied fairly during a protest, and he notes that a department could be held to account in civil court if it can't justify the need for erecting a police line or barricade.

Departments "are going to have to have a good reason to put the barricade up," he says. "If they close the road, it has to be for civil disorder or for something that is a crime or hazardous to the general public."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author atDanny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com


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