Three years in the making: Max's Law signed into law by Gov. Parson

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Gov. Mike Parson signs the anti-crime bill containing Max’s Law. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer is to Parson’s left along with K-9 Max’s handler, St. Joseph Police Officer Lucas Winder. St. Joseph Police Chief Paul Luster is in the back./Photo by Alisa Nelson, Missourinet

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

Max’s Law has been signed by Governor Mike Parson, successfully
ending a three-year effort to honor St. Joseph’s K-9 Max, shot and killed in
the summer of 2021.

Max’ Law increases the penalty for killing a police dog or any
police animal.

St. Joseph Police Chief Paul Luster attended the bill signing
ceremony this morning in Jefferson City and says the change is needed.

“It’s important to know that those dogs are part of the police
family and they serve a very purposeful and useful function in policing,”
Luster tells KFEQ/St. Joseph Post. “And to have a law in effect that will properly
hold those accountable that have a desire to hurt one of those animals is very
important to our community and to our profession.”

Luster says even with his years in police work, he didn’t
realize how light the penalty was for killing a police dog.

“I had no idea that it was just treated like a property crime,”
Luster says. “They spoke this morning that there was a higher penalty for
breaking a window of a police car than there was for killing a police dog. That’s
just not acceptable given the importance of what those K-9 officers do for us.
I was very surprised to learn that and very satisfied to know that we’ll have
the proper legislation in effect now.”

K-9 Max was shot and killed chasing a suspect on June 30th of 2021.

Several police dogs and their handlers attended the bill
signing ceremony in the governor’s office. K-9 Max’s handler, Officer Lucas
Winder, attended as well.

In all, Luster says it was an emotional day.

“It was kind of overwhelming there being in the governor’s
office and having Gov. Parson sign into law Max’s Law named after our K-9 there
in St. Joe,” Luster says. “To have his handler, Officer Winder, there as well was
a pretty overwhelming experience.”

State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville,
sponsored the legislation. Luetkemeyer first carried the legislature the year
after K-9 Max was shot and killed. That legislation couldn’t overcome a
filibuster mounted on the last day of the legislative session. Last year, Gov.
Parson vetoed the anti-crime bill that contained Max’s Law, objecting to an
unrelated provision in the bill. Luetkemeyer removed that provision in the bill
this year.

The bill goes into effect on August 28th.

Click HERE for the text to Senate Bill 754.

K-9 Max/file photo
K-9 Max/file photo

You can follow Brent on X @GBrentKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.