Another step toward possible local control of Kansas City’s police department is in the works. With support from local faith leaders, Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced an ordinance Thursday that would include a ballot question on local control of KCPD on the November election ballot.

If Kansas City shows majority support for the change, Lucas said it could set a legislative priority for local control of KCPD in 2021. Multiple activist groups and leaders have demanded local control for years, saying they deserve to have some control over KCPD to hold them accountable easier.

“We expect to have a voice in the public institutions that are funded with tax dollars,” Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City said in a press conference on June 3.

KCPD is overseen by a Board of Police Commissioners who are appointed by the governor to make policy decisions. Activists and supporters of local control argue Kansas City citizens should be able to vote for the leaders who oversee the police department.

The local control ballot question would read:

Shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri establish as a City legislative priority in the Missouri General Assembly the pursuit of a state legislative or referendum action that will return Mayor and City Council-led local control to the Kansas City Police Department rather than the current control of the Kansas City Police Department by a committee comprised of four members appointed by the Governor of Missouri and an additional position held by the Mayor of Kansas City. 

Although a successful Kansas City vote for local control would not be enough for the change, Lucas said if the public shows their support for local control through the ballot vote, he will then be able to take the issue to the governor and general assembly and hopefully it will make it to the state ballot where the state will make the final decision.

Last year, Councilwoman Melissa Robinson introduced a resolution calling for an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of returning the police department to local control and to report back to city council with their findings. Lucas said the board will continue this work and will give a report before the ballot vote.

“Decisions about the future of public safety in our community should be in the hands of our voters. I look forward to hearing from the people of Kansas City on the best path forward,” Lucas said in a press release. “This is one of many steps we’re taking to create a better and more accountable City government, improve community relations, and build the best police department for our community and our officers.”

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