Kansas City Police Board Loosens Residency Rule. But Kansas Is Not Included

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday that allows officers to live outside the city limits.

But for now, it prohibits them from living in Kansas.

Under the policy, police officers, civilian workers and reserve are required to live within 30 miles of the city limits. Previously that would have included Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas, but commissioners decided to remove that portion of the policy.

They plan to revisit the policy after the new state law goes into effect on Aug. 31. The board’s action falls in line with a new state law approved earlier this year by the Missouri General Assembly which lifts the police residency requirement.

The board voted 3-1 with Commissioner Don Wagner voting against because it would not allow officers to live in Kansas.

The law allows 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.

Residency rule

Mayor Quinton Lucas had opposed the new policy and had previously said the change has nothing to do with making Kansas City or Missouri safer.

“I don’t know why we necessarily need to expand beyond that particularly when we have had generations of this requirement, I think we have a very good department, a bunch of people live in Kansas City, Missouri,” Lucas said.

“Now, the legislature has made a decision, in my view that said, let’s expand it to in essence the Missouri suburbs that I don’t know why we would look to make these additional expansions.”

Deputy Chief Mike Wood said including Kansas in the policy was done after the police department consulted with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 police union, who pushed state lawmakers to make the change.

The police union has said loosening the residency requirement would help recruitment and retention.

Prior to the new state law, Kansas City sworn officers were required to live in the city for one year before beginning their employment, and civilian workers had nine months to relocate into the city. They were required to live within city limits throughout their employment with the police department.

Police recruiting

Commissioner Cathy Dean asked if there was any objective evidence available that it would help the police department to allow officers to live in Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

Wood said he knows officers from other agencies would have wanted to make a lateral transfer to Kansas City but decided against it to remain in Kansas because of better schools and lower taxes.

“I don’t know that we have objective evidence of that,” he said. “But I think we can make a pretty strong inference that’s the case.”

Wagner said he had long supported the residency requirement but said that was no longer the case.

“We are hurting ourselves if we don’t include Johnson and Wyandotte counties,” Wagner said. “And especially Wyandotte County because we have a lot of trouble getting minority recruits.”

Jean Peters Baker

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker told police commissioners at the meeting that the department should stop sending her office low-level drug cases and instead of focus on violent crime.

Baker said her office is creating narrow guidelines for drug cases and will charge them when a defendant poses a public safety risk.

“But going after a violent crime by going after a low level offenses has high impact, and perhaps not the one that we’re actually after,” Baker said during the police board monthly meeting.

“Perhaps it’s one that’s actually harmful.”

Baker said Kansas City police sent 1,402 felony drug cases to her office last year. An analysis showed that only about 25% of drug cases within four years had a nexus to violence, when considering factors such as gun crimes or physical violence. That meant that 75% had “no discernible connection” to violence.

“I’ve always been taught drugs equal violence and that just isn’t true from this data,” she said. “We want drug cases if you can show me there is a connection to violence.”

The police board took no action on Baker’s findings. One police commissioner said residents want officers to respond to violence in their neighborhoods.

“How can we give our officers direction to do certain things in Jackson County, that they don’t do in the other three counties?” said Commissioner Cathy Dean. “I mean if that isn’t discrimination then I am concerned that it is.”

Baker replied: “You do that right now with enforcement practices.”

Baker said she would like to create neighborhood accountability boards and find ways to build trust and relationships with law enforcement.

“What my hope is that it impacts particularized communities, vulnerable communities in this way: They believe enforcement practices and prosecution practices are fair,” Baker said. “If they believe we’re fair then when we need them they will be there for us. It’s about trust.”

From www.kansascity.com

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