Push to give guns to Missouri parole officers wavering in Legislature

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BRANSON MO NEWS: JEFFERSON CITY • A plan to arm the state’s probation and parole officers is meeting resistance in the Legislature.As part of Gov. Eric Greitens’ budget request for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Republican governor sought more than $556,000 to buy guns, ammunition, holsters, bulletproof vests and handcuffs for 407 of Missouri’s 800-plus probation officers.But, a draft of the latest House budget proposal shows the money being used in other parts of the $27.8 billion spending blueprint.

Although parole officers already have the authority to carry firearms, it is an optional program. Officers must furnish their own gun and holster, while the state will pay for the ammunition.The change in policy is part of a make-over of the Missouri Department of Corrections, which has been working to find ways to reduce the prison population by offering more programs for offenders when they are released. One provision is a plan to heighten the presence and visibility of the probation and parole division.Budget documents said officials also want officers to begin arresting offenders in order to allow for police to focus on other law enforcement issues. That could put more workers in harm’s way.The agency says staff already face safety-related incidents.“These incidents include assaults, threats of assaults or weapons possession,” budget documents note.Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, who chairs a budget sub-committee that oversees public safety spending, said she supported the added spending and hopes to convince her colleagues to restore the money as the budget-writing process moves forward.“A lot of these officers have to go out to areas that are pretty rural. The division’s concerns is that our workers are doing arrests sometimes and the ex-offender may not want to be going to jail,” Conway said. “We felt that they needed all the …


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