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Campaign seeks to shift KCPD away from state control

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A campaign is underway to take control of the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department away from a board the Missouri governor appoints.

KCPD has been controlled by a state board since the 1930s when the department was rife with corruption. Instead of being accountable to the Board of Police Commissioners, there is a group of people who think that the local police department should be controlled by local leaders: the mayor and city council.

KCPD is the only department in the country that is controlled by the state and not by the city. FOX 4 asked board member Angela Wasson-Hunt about her opinion on the matter.

"I think the system works pretty well the way it is today. It seems to be operating fine and what's broke, don't try to fix,” she said.

UMKC criminal justice professor Ken Novak sat on Mayor Sly James blue ribbon commission on police governance in 2013. The commission was formed to determine if the police department should flip to local control rather than be governed by the board of police commissioners, the majority of whom are appointed by the governor.

The blue ribbon commission decided - by one vote - to keep KCPD under state control.

The current model was put into place during the Prendergast era to separate the police from local political corruption.

"That is the reason it was implemented initially was to eliminate local politics from using the police within corrupt enterprise and to a lesser extent it separates the police from local political struggles that may exist,” Novak said.

There are cons to KCPD under state control as well; One being budget concerns with duplication in human resources, it and other administrative functions as well as what he calls a lack of true local accountability.

“There is a very symbolically symbolic aspect of that where taxes and revenue are generated locally but ultimately allocated by a board appointed by somebody in Jefferson City,” Novak said.

Alvin Brooks has been involved in policing since he started on the KCPD in 1954. He is now a member of the police commission. FOX 4 asked him if local or state control is better.

“I hesitate saying well, it ought to be this way or that way. I really don't know and I'm not sure if there is any data to show that it's better one way or another,” Brooks said.

Commissioner Brooks says that he does not know of any research to prove one way is better than the other, and he thinks KC needs to study St. Louis, which switched from state to local control a few years ago, to see if crime is down in that city.

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