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Missouri Senate Votes To Lift Kansas City Police Residency Requirement, Ban Chokeholds

Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio
Legislators in Jefferson City may soon lift the requirement that Kansas City police officers must live within city limits.

In a 30-4 vote, the Missouri Senate moved to lift the requirement that Kansas City police officers live within city limits.

A bill that would lift the residency requirement for Kansas City police officers passed the state Senate on Monday.

The bill, which advances to the House after a 30-4 vote, includes a package of other changes related to law enforcement, such as a ban on the use of chokeholds.

Currently, all Kansas City employees are required to live within city boundaries. New police officers have a one-year grace period that starts on the day they begin the police academy.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who introduced the residency provision, originally wanted to give officers the option to live anywhere within 60 miles of city limits.

After a lengthy debate last week with Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, and other Democrats, Luetkemeyer shifted the limit to 30 miles and added the requirement that officers live in Missouri.

Senate passage came despite opposition from both Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Lucas wrote last week on Twitter that the bill is “a step back for community-police relations at a time our city cannot afford it. Outside occupying forces lead to more problems, not fewer.”

But Luetkemeyer said most officers already live north of the Missouri River, in neighborhoods outside high-crime areas.

“The idea of community policing presumes that these officers are living in the areas that they actually police, and that their presence is a stabilizing force,” Luetkemeyer told KCUR. “The bottom line for me is an officer’s address does not dictate how they perform on the job.”

The vote comes a year after legislators lifted a similar residency requirement for St. Louis police, although leaders there, including St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, supported the change in a city with a much smaller geographic footprint than Kansas City.

Chokehold ban

The proposed chokehold ban comes after years of lobbying for police reform following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Efforts to ban police chokeholds intensified after George Floyd was killed last May when a Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee into his neck. The policeman, Derek Chauvin, is on trial for murder.

As currently written, the text of the proposed chokehold ban prohibits “using a respiratory (chokehold) unless deadly force is authorized.”

The bill defines such chokeholds as “the use of any body part or object to attempt to control or disable a person by applying pressure to the person's neck with the purpose, intent, or effect of controlling or restricting the person's breathing.”

Sgt. Jake Becchina, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said the department would not be affected if the chokehold ban becomes law.

“We have never had chokeholds, never taught them, and they are not allowed in policy except in an instance that would be objectively reasonable in a life-threatening situation,” he said.

Kansas City police teach an alternate technique called a lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR). Proponents of the technique, pioneered at the department decades ago, say the LVNR is not a chokehold because it restricts a person’s circulatory system but not their airway.

As a reporter covering military and veterans’ affairs, I tell the stories of current and former service members and their families. I hold the government, elected officials and others responsible when they break their promises. And I explore how Americans can best uphold our commitments to those who serve.
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