KANSAS CITY, Mo.– A study to determine whether the city should take direct control over its police department has been approved by the public safety committee.
Opponents believe police do a better job working outside the influence of local politics.
Kansas City is the only city in the nation whose police force is governed by the state, a board of commissioners appointed by the governor.
The governing body is a vestige of the Pendergast era, when municipal government was deemed to be too corrupt to oversee police.
Now, some on the city council are arguing that at a time when Kansas City is in the middle of a violent crime epidemic, part of the solution may be to make police more accountable to leaders elected by the people they serve and protect.
“Not many individuals who reside in the most violent areas of our city are on the police commission, if you look back a couple of decades,” said Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, who pushed for the study. “We want to make sure that there is a governance model to make sure that all voices are heard.”
Police have argued that officers serve the community better when they are not influenced by political whims of local elected leaders.
“What have we not been responsive to in my 28 plus years?” Brad Lemon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union that represents Kansas City officers, said. “We have answered every single question, every single time. We have never hid anything. It’s not like we can hide money or not respond and do what they want.”
A measure to include police residency rules as part of the study was taken out. The council is already on record opposing any attempt by lawmakers in Jefferson City, Missouri, to eliminate residency requirements for public safety workers.
If approved by the full city council, a report on the benefits and drawbacks of local control would be completed by the end of September.