JEFFERSON CITY - Attorney General Chris Koster announced plans Wednesday to examine Missouri's domestic violence laws, which Koster said have not been updated in 30 years.
Koster has created a legislative task force to review the antiquated laws, with meetings already planned in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City this month.
According to a press release, the first of these will occur on September 7 in St. Louis, where Koster has assembled a panel of legislators to attend the meeting as task force members. The group includes Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis County, and six Democrat state representatives.
Koster said he invited legislators from both political parties, specifically seeking "those who are in leadership, those who had a geographic interest in the area, and those who had worked on the issue before."
Koster said the task force will seek improvements in three areas relating to addressing the crime of domestic violence: Court systems, police departments, and legislature. According to Koster, he hopes the task force will ensure that domestic violence victims "are brought through our court system in a way that is sensitive to their needs but also is trying to convict the abusers."
"[We want to] make sure that there are the best possible set of laws on the books and we'll make recommendations to the general assembly for the next session in January," Koster said.
Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said she hopes the task force will look not only to improve upon legislation, but also to identify beneficial laws already in place.
Coble said the meetings will unite state workers to discuss the legal issues surrounding domestic violence.
"It is an essential part of our shared work to make sure that women and their children are safe from domestic violence and that those who commit the violence are held accountable and are not able to victimize another woman or another child," Coble said.
Erin Ercoline, executive director of ALIVE domestic violence agency in St. Louis, said the task force will verify that all the legislation is up to date and identify any laws that might contradict each other.
Ercoline said the meetings "won't fix everything," but that they are still "a step in the right direction."
"Any time you can get politicians to talk about such an important and critical cause, it's a good thing," Ercoline said.