Missouri wants to run Kansas City’s police department. Then let Missouri pay for it

·3 min read

Kansas City Police Commissioner Nathan Garrett implored local taxpayers to send even more of their money to the department. “Any notion that the city will benefit or be better off by less police is seriously misplaced and misinformed,” he said at this week’s commission meeting.

He wants the city to use national COVID-19 relief funds, which Republicans universally opposed, to help pay for a police training academy class of roughly 65 applicants. They’d replace officers retiring from the force, or leaving it.

“I’d encourage you to contact your city councilperson to support what we’re asking for,” he urged online viewers of the meeting. “Namely, to restore some of our force.”

Here’s a better idea: Call your state representative or senator, and tell them the state should pay for whatever financial shortfall the department thinks it has.

Because local taxpayers need not, and should not pay one additional dime for a department over which they have no direct supervision. If the state wants to run the police department, and it does, then shouldn’t the state pay for it?

Need proof? Monday, Mayor Quinton Lucas implored the legislature to maintain the residency requirement for Kansas City police officers. “It’s a situation where Kansas Citians say we want our officers living in our community,” he said. “Being of our community. Working with our community.”

Sorry. Lawmakers blew off Lucas like so much chaff. Thursday, they approved a measure lifting the residency requirement for Kansas City police. It’s awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s signature.

The non-residency idea came from the Fraternal Order of Police, who worked their magic through state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican who lives in Parkville, not Kansas City. His colleagues from around the state joined hands to exempt Kansas City officers from rules that apply to virtually every other city employee.

Because, of course, officers don’t really work for the city. They’re just paid that way.

Giving COVID money to police creates future problem

You might have expected Garrett and his police board associates to criticize legislators for this idea at their meeting Tuesday. They did not. They said nothing about the calls for Police Chief Rick Smith to resign, either.

Their silence should make you angry. Garrett and fellow board member Don Wagner — half the appointed board — are still serving on expired terms. They should have been replaced in March.

Missouri wants to run the police department, but Parson can’t be bothered to name replacements? The Missouri Senate won’t be able to consider nominees until this fall, at the earliest.

Let’s add it up: Missouri gets to decide where Kansas City officers can live, but doesn’t care if the oversight board is up to date (Garrett and Wagner were put on the board by then-Gov. Eric Greitens.)

And now the department wants more local money for this corrupt system. No thanks.

This isn’t defunding the police. Despite the pandemic, taxpayers will shell out $261 million for police services this year, far more than for any other department in the city. It’s nearly double the money required under — you guessed it — state law.

The department wants to add to that total, hoping the city’s share of COVID-19 relief money can pick up the slack. But that’s dangerous: The COVID-19 funds are available only for a couple of years, while newly-hired officers will be an expense for decades.

And using COVID-19 money absolves the department of any effort to examine its own spending habits. The shelves are packed with studies suggesting ways the department might economize, and get more officers on the street. Those studies are ignored.

So are calls to replace Chief Smith. When you’re run by the state, you can do as you please.

So yes, let Jefferson City pay for the police. Call Tony Luetkemeyer. Maybe he has some ideas.