Missouri Senate approves bill that allows judges to try 14-year-olds as adults

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Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri, USA

Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri, USA

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri senators on Thursday advanced a bill that would allow judges to try some children as adults for felony crimes and temporarily lift a requirement that St. Louis police live in that city.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson called for those changes in response to a surge in murders in the state’s cities.

State senators voted 27-3 to pass the bill. The three senators that voted against it, Brian Williams, Karla May and Jamilah Nasheed, are all from St. Louis.

The bill agreed on by senators also would ramp up penalties for adults who give weapons to children without their parents’ permission and strengthen witness protections, among other things.

Lawmakers disagreed on whether to let judges try children as young as 12 as adults. They compromised by raising that age to 14 and requiring that minors be kept separate from adult prisoners. However, the age restriction does not apply with charges of armed criminal action or unlawful use of a weapon.

The measures come as both Kansas City and St. Louis face a rise in violent crime. Operation LeGend, a federal injection of agents focused on catching criminals, started in Kansas City and has since expanded to the opposite side of the state.

Senators also fought on whether to end the rule that St. Louis police officers live in the city.

Some senators argued that lifting the residency requirement could boost recruitment and combat understaffing at the agency. But Democratic senators who represent the city said it should be up to St. Louis voters to decide who can serve in law enforcement there.

Lawmakers compromised by proposing to lift the residency requirement for only three years.

The bill needs another Senate vote of approval before it can go to the House for consideration.

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