Legal committee reviews local control ordinance

The Special Committee for Legal Review considered Ordinance 200496 at its Tuesday, July 21, meeting.

The ordinance calls for an election on Nov. 3, 2020 to obtain public authorization as a City legislative priority to establish the pursuit of a state legislative or referendum action that would restore local control of the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD).

The control would be in the hands of Mayor Quinton Lucas and the City Council, rather than the current control of the department by the Board of Police Commissioners, which is a committee comprised of four members appointed by the governor and including the mayor.

In February, the council adopted a resolution to create a task force on violent crime and exploring local control, to which the mayor appointed members in May. Local protests amplified the voice of members of the public asking for local control.

Lucas said a vote in November would gauge the public’s opinion on the issue, although the vote would not cause any direct action.

The committee did not vote to make a recommendation on the ordinance, using the time solely for a public hearing.

Many in favor of local control argued that this ordinance is not the way to go about it, especially in the midst of a pandemic that will have unknown financial consequences for the city.

Those against local control noted that the department could be used as a political prop. Others shared the example of St. Louis, which gained local control of its police department in 2013 and has since gone into debt.

While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, as one of a few cities that did not have local control, council members could be using that example when making a decision on what to prioritize for the upcoming year.

The committee also discussed a policy that would expand pre-trial diversion, amending traffic ordinances and centralizing data across departments.

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