Committee: State should keep control of KC police

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — An effort to remove the Kansas City Police Department from state control suffered a setback when a special committee rejected a proposal to put the department under local control.

Monday’s recommendation from the police governance committee isn’t binding but supporters of local control acknowledged it made the change less likely. Kansas City is the only major U.S. city without full authority over its police force, The Kansas City Star reported.
The committee voted 13-12 to expand the Board of Police Commissioners from four to six members but recommended that the Missouri governor continue to appoint board members. It rejected a proposal to give Mayor Sly James authority to appoint the police board and another proposal to maintain the current structure.
James and the Kansas City Council can accept, reject or ignore the committee’s recommendation but any change in control of the police department would have to be approved by either the Missouri Legislature or the state’s voters.
Supporters said local control would be more efficient and save money, while opponents contend it would bring politics into police work.
“Now that we, as a community, have determined we’re ready to make changes to the current governance structure, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the City Council and in the police department, as well as the Missouri General Assembly, to develop a structure that works for everyone,” James said in a statement.
Kansas City’s police force was placed under state control in the late 1930s because of corruption. St. Louis was under state control until late last summer, after Missouri voters agreed to return police control to locally elected officials.
Supporters of state control said Monday they saw no evidence that the current system needs to change.
“The system of state control has worked well,” said City Councilman John Sharp. “I’m certainly not satisfied with our crime rates in Kansas City but . I think the department’s on the right track.”
Opponents said their effort would continue.
“It’s a process,” said City Councilman Ed Ford. “I think this is probably going to be a setback, but the day will come, whether it’s in 2015 or 2018, we’ll have local control.”