KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The residency requirement for Kansas City police officers is no more. Officers will now be able to live within 30 miles of Kansas City, Missouri.
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners voted to drop the department’s residency requirements at Tuesday’s meeting.
Officers will be limited to the Missouri side of the metro, but the board will continue discussions to open up the boundary to the Kansas side at a later time.
It’s part of the continued tug-of-war over control of the Kansas City Police Department playing out between the state and the city.
The board’s decision comes after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 53, which relaxed the department’s residency requirements on a legislative level. The board’s vote puts them in line with the state’s rule.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and several civil rights organizations have spoken out against ending the residency rule that previously required KCPD officers to live within Kansas City limits. Lucas continued to voice his frustrations Tuesday.
“I’m not even going to waste your time. I’m just opposed. I can give lots of reasons,” he said.
Lucas has argued it would drive a wedge between the community and the police department at a time when we need to build bridges.
Supporters, on the other hand, said it would provide officers a better work-life balance. They believe it would also help recruit new officers to the department.
Lucas said he’s also not in favor of further conversations about letting officers live on the Kansas side of the state line.
“I did not read the legislation [to mean] and I think there were a number of state senators who didn’t necessarily think the legislation included Kansas areas as well,” Lucas said.
But others spoke out in favor of the idea.
“This was an add-on from (the police union) and their interpretation of how it was written and the way we added it — certainly open to discussion,” KCPD Deputy Chief Mike Wood said during the police commissioners meeting.
Commissioner Kathy Dean asked if there was any objective evidence that allowing officers to live in Johnson or Wyandotte counties would benefit the department.
Anecdotal evidence was the only evidence the department had available.
“Through my career, the sole reason they haven’t come over here is because they wanted to stay on the Kansas side, whether it be for school districts or taxes, whatever,” Wood said. “We have several people who probably at some point in their career have made that lateral transfer and what hindered them is having to move to Kansas City, Missouri.”
Lucas said he might be willing to talk about a compromise.
“If we were looking for a compromise, which I’m not sure, respectfully, my friends in the lodge are, then I’d be willing to talk about just having Wyandotte County,” Lucas said.
But he’s not sure that would be the best solution.
“I think if we did that they would be very unhappy and say, ‘No this is actually a bill about Johnson County, Kansas,’ for anecdotal reasons because I’m going to be a straight-shooter — there’s a view the schools are good and all those sorts of things,” Lucas said.
Ultimately commissioners voted to approve the residency requirement on the Missouri side and set the Kansas issue aside for later. The discussion will continue forward on an unspecified timeline an very possibly could be approved at a later date.