The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners is poised to approve a resolution on Tuesday that would allow officers to live outside the city.
That would include Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.
The move comes after the Missouri General Assembly earlier this year passed a measure lifting the long standing police residency requirement. The law will now allow Kansas City officers to live within 30 miles of the city limits. The local police board maintains the authority to expand the boundaries of where officers, non-police staff and reserve officers can live.
The police department policy will be on the board’s consent agenda during the monthly meeting Tuesday. Measures on the consent agenda usually passed without debate.
Mayor Quinton Lucas has long opposed the change and has called repealing of the residency rule “unfortunate,” saying the change has nothing to do with making Kansas City or Missouri safer.
Supporters of the measure, including the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 police union, have said loosening the residency requirement would help recruitment and retention.
Prior to the new state law, Kansas City sworn officers were required to reside in the city for one year before beginning their employment, and civilian workers have nine months to relocate into the city. They also had to live within city limits for as long as they work for the police department.
During a police board meeting last year, police union president Brad Lemon admitted to commissioners that some officers rent trailers and keep two homes to skirt rules that require them to live within the city limits.
Missouri General Assembly
State lawmakers approved a measure last year that allows St. Louis police officers will be able to live outside the city limits. That law was supported by then-St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Kansas City Democrats had opposed the efforts to lift the residency rule this year and secured language in the bill allowing the police board to limit officers to living in Missouri.
Sen. Barbara Washington and Greg Razer negotiated and agreed with Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Parkville Republican, on language, which ultimately passed, that states any KCPD residency rule “shall be no more restrictive than requiring such personnel to reside within thirty miles from the nearest city limit and within the boundaries of the state of Missouri.”
“If we’re going to have Kansas City, Missouri police officers patrolling the streets of Kansas City, Missouri, and we’re going to say that they don’t have to be Kansas Citians, at least we could say, hey we’re not going to let them move three blocks and start paying Kansas taxes,” Razer said in March.
Luetkmeyer said Monday the law does not prohibit officers from living in Kansas at all, and only makes 30 miles outside the city limits within Missouri the strictest possible residency requirement the board could adopt.
“It prohibits them from being more restrictive than that,” he said. “It does not prohibit the Board of Police Commissioners from loosening those requirements beyond that.”
But Washington said the proposal “absolutely goes against” her intent in the compromise language, which was “to make sure you lived within 30 miles within the Missouri side.”
“We definitely fought against them living in Kansas,” she said. “To allow our officers to come from another state also decreases the economic development in our own communities. They won’t shop in our grocery stores ... their property taxes won’t go to our schools.”
She said already, few officers live in her district in the East Side, which experiences higher crime, and suggested allowing officers from across the state line to patrol would increase uses of force.
“Nobody out in Olathe would know how to work with someone at 23rd and Van Brunt,” she said.
Parson to sign bill
Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to scheduled to ceremonially sign the new state law on Friday at the Kansas City FOP offices.
Darron Edwards, lead pastor of the United Believers Community Church said the policy change speaks to the crumbling relationship between the police department and the community it serves.
“It shows the disingenuous leadership of Chief Rick Smith to hear and or even consider the request and the admonishments coming from local leaders,” Edwards told The Star. “It is as if Pharaoh won’t listen to the Moses of this city. So there’s got to be other means and mechanisms to remove Pharaoh from this city.”
“This is just another sign that the Kansas City police department is going to do whatever they want to do without considering the community and what the community thinks.”
Bill Lukitsch contributed to this report.