By TIM ROWDEN
The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police (MOFOP) has formally endorsed Attorney General Chris Koster for governor.
Koster, who is running as a law-and-order moderate and describes himself as “a conservative Democrat,” traveled the state recently touting the endorsement with news conferences in St. Louis, Springfield, Kansas City and Columbia.
The MOFOP represents over 6,500 police men and women in the state. The group’s endorsement recognizes Koster’s record of supporting law enforcement officers and working with the police community to make Missourians safer.
“Chris understands the scope of our work and what we do,” said Rick Inglima, president of the MOFOP. “His support for law enforcement goes well beyond the working relationship. He’s fought for pay increases at every step of his career to professionalize law enforcement and scholarships to help recruit officers from lower income communities to work in our departments throughout the state. He’s proven his ability to find solutions to make the lives of Missourian’s better.”
The MOFOP endorsement comes amid a national focus on the relationship between police and African-Americans – from the 2014 unrest in Ferguson to recent police shootings in Dallas, Batton Rouge, Ballwin and in Kansas City, KS.
Koster said under his administration as governor, police around the state will have his unwavering support.
“Anyone who would ever shoot at a police officer is a domestic terrorist,” Koster said. “Just as importantly, anyone who would ever support or cheer or hold sympathy in their heart for such an individual is an enemy of civil society.
“I want these officers here today, the officers they represent and all six million Missourians to know that the next administration that I will lead will have the back of law enforcement officers at every level in every county in this state, unquestioned, and make certain that they have the resources and faith and loyalty of this government as they go forward to make sure that our state is safe and functioning properly.”
Koster reiterated his support for a judicial “gun docket,” which he has been advocating for in front of the Missouri General Assembly for the past two years, and promised to push the GOP-controlled legislature to support higher bail requirements and stricter sentencing for arrestees on gun crimes.
“The city of St. Louis simply cannot survive as an entity at 200 murders a year. It will collapse at some point upon itself,” Koster said.
“Giving these officers the tools that they need to take criminals off the street and calm these streets from the levels that we have seen has been something I have been advocating for in front of the Missouri General Assembly for the last two years,” Koster said. “My hope is that in January of next year, as governor, we will return to this issue and talk with them about increased support for probation and parole in intensive supervision.”
MINORITY RECRUITMENT, MOVING BEYOND FERGUSON
Koster also used the press conference to call for more minority recruitment in law enforcement, an effort he said has become his passion.
Koster said he and St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson regularly meet with students in predominantly African-American schools to talk about the importance of – and try to ignite excitement in – choosing law enforcement as a career.
“There is no doubt that we can’t totally solve the problems of Ferguson unless we are able to excite again young people from the minority community to come into policing. Taking those speeches from the symbolic state to actually policy with the General Assembly in a bipartisan way, my hope is, will link together and create scholarships and opportunities and a real challenge for young people to choose policing I think is incredibly important in moving beyond Ferguson.”
Although Koster’s GOP rival Eric Greitens has recently touted his support for law enforcement, officials at the St. Louis press conference said their support for Koster was unanimous.
“Although we may not completely agree on every single topic, we’ve always had a good dialogue with the attorney general,” said Joe Patterson, the president of the St. Louis County Police Officers Association. “The attorney general has always sat down at a table and included us in conversations. We felt that we were part of a plan. And under his governor’s office, we would assume that’s going to continue.”