Finally, a mayor who leads on police control
The Kansas City Star
The potential for local control of Kansas City’s Police Department has taken a significant step forward thanks to Mayor Sly James.
Defying those who wanted him to stay on the sidelines, James has endorsed Proposition A on the Nov. 6 Missouri ballot. That citizens initiative would allow St. Louis to wrest power over its police from state officials.
If voters pass the proposition — and polls show there is a good chance they will — Kansas City embarrassingly would become the only city in the nation without direct control of its police force. Instead, the governor would continue appointing four of the five members on the board of police commissioners that runs the Police Department. The mayor is the other member.
Unfortunately, Kansas City is far behind St. Louis is getting rid of this outmoded form of state control.
We haven’t had a nonbinding referendum on local control. St. Louis did in 2010, and nearly 70 percent of voters endorsed the measure.
Kansas City also doesn’t have buy-in yet from the Fraternal Order of Police. St. Louis got its police force to go along after agreeing that the management of officers’ pension funds — their No. 1 concern — would remain in state hands.
Kansas City does not yet have solid backing from the business community and local state legislators to move forward on this matter. In St. Louis, business leaders have long sensibly pointed out that locally elected officials ought to direct police spending.
In his letter to Slay, James went far beyond what any Kansas City mayor in the last quarter century has done by outlining the positive aspects of local control, saying it “offers opportunities for financial stability and political accountability that are not readily available under the current system.”
Assuming passage of Proposition A, Kansas City could join St. Louis in one of two ways: Pursue a similar statewide vote or ask the General Assembly to act on the issue.
It will take more months of work to get to either of those points, but it would be especially encouraging if Kansas Citians turned out in force to approve Proposition A.
James appears ready to provide the leadership needed to resolve this issue in the best interests of local residents. That means returning direct control of the Police Department to the people of Kansas City.