Potential ballot measure on local control for KCPD would just be first step in long process

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The state of Missouri has overseen the Kansas City Police Department for more than 80 years. But that could end.

The mayor is asking city council members to approve an ordinance that would ask voters if they support local control of KCPD

From the Country Club Plaza to the steps of city hall, protesters in Kansas City have been demanding action all summer. Many of their cries are being heard and acted upon by local leaders.

“I think people understand this moment is an important one, and we shouldn’t miss it,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Lucas has enacted new police accountability measures. Private funding secured will help buy body cameras. The city council dismissed protester tickets.

And now, the mayor’s taking a step to address a top demand of demonstrators: return KCPD to local control.

“I thought it was time and important for us to ask Kansas City if this is a legislative priority they are interested in, interested in us pursuing to make sure we have a real opportunity to talk about the merits, perhaps the drawbacks, the way local control would work — all sorts of things,” Lucas said.

KCPD is currently the country’s only police agency to have oversight through a governor-appointed board. With escalating murder rates and pleas for racial equality in policing, some say it’s time for a change.

It could begin with this ballot measure the city council is considering putting to voters on Nov. 3.

“I’m extremely hopeful because I have not seen anything like this in Kansas City in my lifetime,” said Emanuel Cleaver III with St. James United Methodist Church.

Emanuel Cleaver III believes having local control could open the door to all kinds of police reforms, like creating an independent board to review complaints against officers, which is currently handled internally.

“We should not have to be scared of people who are supposed to be protecting us,” said Ledet Brown, president of Black Kansas City Family.

KCPD referred FOX4 to a 2019 blog post by Chief Rick Smith about local police control.

The chief wrote in part, “Kansas City’s form of governance is unique, but should be seen as a strength and not a weakness. It has allowed the department to function professionally, transparently and respectably.” 

The city council has until Aug. 20 to finalize ballot language, and the measure would only ask if voters want local police control to be a state legislative priority.

It would take action at the statehouse in Jefferson City to authorize a statewide vote before police oversight could change.

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