Missouri governor's new pick to train cops is sheriff who defends police violence


Sheriff Dave Marshak argued last month that the Atlanta cop accused of murder in the killing of Rayshard Brooks was 'completely justified.'

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson appointed a sheriff who has defended police violence to the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.

Parson announced on June 19 that he was naming Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak to the panel, which handles the training and licensing of law enforcement officers.

Both Parson and Marshak are Republicans.

A day after his appointment, Marshak appeared on the "Weekend Report" podcast produced by St. Louis-area talk radio station FM 97.1 and argued that the actions of an Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in June were legally justifiable.

Brooks, a Black man, was shot by a white police officer during a sobriety test outside a Wendy's restaurant in Atlanta. He died after surgery. The officer has since been fired and faces multiple criminal charges.

"I've looked at Atlanta's use of force policy. It's eight pages. Under that particular case, the police officer was completely justified," Marshak said. Referring to the Supreme Court's ruling in Graham v. Connor in 1989 that claims of excessive use of force by police should be investigated based on whether such use is "objectively reasonable," Marshak said that the way to evaluate the force used by police officers is "through their lens: What did the police officer know at the time? And was it reasonable, based on everything he knows or perceives at that time? It's not relevant that we look at it in hindsight 20/20."

In the same interview, Marshak defended the doctrine of qualified immunity under which law enforcement personnel are legally shielded from liability for many of their actions. "Qualified immunity is there to protect government officials, not just police officers," he said. "It is there to protect government officials in the capacity that they are doing their government business."

In the wake of the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police officers, many civil rights advocates and lawmakers have pushed to eliminate qualified immunity as a way of reducing police violence.

This was not the first time Marshak has come to the defense of the law enforcement community against charges of abuse. Earlier in June, he tweeted that while there is a history of racism in America, "racism is not systemic police. [Law enforcement] does exceptional with Use of Force. #realnumbersmatter."

Parson did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story. In an email, Marshak stood by his comments and said he had not discussed them with Parson.

But Parson had previously indicated that he supported police reform. In early June, he told reporters that he opposed defunding the police but wanted to address racism and police brutality.

"Doing away with police officers, law enforcement officers, is not an answer for anything," Parson said. "You want to change the way we do business? You want things better? We can all do better. I can do better as governor. Law enforcement, never hurts to learn, can always do better."

"To try to blame all law enforcement for some bad actors in law enforcement is not the answer. To get rid of the bad operators is the answer. To figure out how we get better, we need to have that discussion," Parson said. "It will take governors sitting down in communities that maybe we don't always sit down with enough and try to figure out how do we do real changes."

Updated to include a response from Marshak.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.