Kansas City looking to take back control of police department - KCTV5 News

Kansas City looking to take back control of its police department

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The Kansas City Council only controls the purse strings for the city police department, and Mayor Sly James and others are looking to change that.

James announced Thursday that he has created a blue ribbon commission to examine seeking voter approval for the change. Currently, the Missouri governor, with the Senate's blessing, appoints a board to oversee the department.

James' announcement comes several months after St. Louis voters approved local control of that police department, which leaves Kansas City as the only one in the country oversaw by the state.

Because of corruption, the state of Missouri took over control of the department in 1937.

James wants to avoid the controversy that St. Louis had when trying to take back control and is taking extra measures to make sure the change necessary.

"We are not interested in a fight. We don't need a petition. We have good smart people in the city who can work together to figure this out," James said.

The 30-member commission is made up of a who's who of Kansas Citians including lawyers, business leaders, elected officials and civic leaders.

The task force will evaluate the pros and cons, but some already believe change is necessary.

"Because we are separately governed, it does make some things more difficult," Councilman John Sharp said.

Healthcare and others benefits could be simplified rather than separate systems if a merger occurred, Sharp said.

But several police officers, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said they have concerns that a merge would hurt their pensions. Officers also expressed concerns about political issues affecting the department.

Sharp said he understood but said the city can address any issues.

"I think that will be a major concern and we also want to make sure political influence doesn't seep back into the process," Sharp said.

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