Tensions run high at Independence council meeting surrounding COVID relief funds, IPD purchases

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Tensions boiled over inside Independence City Hall Monday night during discussions of using COVID-19 relief money to make purchases for the police department.

Councilman Brice Stewart, who is running for mayor, introduced the two resolutions.

One would’ve taken more than $678,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan toward body cameras.  That money is currently being used for a streets project in the downtown square.

That resolution failed.

The second resolution would bring ShotSpotter to Independence. It detects gunfire and dispatches officers.  It also would install a de-escalation training simulator.

That resolution was postponed two weeks.

After those votes, Stewart and Councilmembers Mike Huff and Michael Steinmeyer stormed out of city hall mid-meeting.

“I’m very disappointed,” Stewart said. “I don’t really understand what the other members of council are thinking. We have to protect the men and women of our department with the proper equipment. Early next year we’re going to have some elections. Elections have consequences. That could change some things around here.”

Mayor Eileen Weir and others voted no to the resolution, saying coronavirus funds are supposed to be used for one-time purchases, not recurring ones. She said she wants to hear more from the police chief.

“I’m disappointed that this has become an argument about who’s for the police and who’s not for the police,” Weir said. “We’re all for a safe city.”

For now, the Independence Police Department will remain one of the only local law enforcement agencies to not have body cameras.  They do, however, have cameras inside their squad cars.

The city of Independence received about $20.3 Million in federal COVID-19 relief.

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