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Over mayor’s objections, Kansas City Police change residency rules so officers can live in Kansas

Kansas City Police work the scene of a rolling, drive-by shooting off Troost Avenue last year near 46th Street.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Police work the scene of a rolling, drive-by shooting off Troost Avenue last year near 46th Street.

Kansas City police officers can now live across the state line, as long as it's within 30 miles of Kansas City. Mayor Quinton Lucas opposed the expanded residency requirement.

Kansas City police officers will now be able to live on the Kansas side of the metro, after the Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday approved an expanded residency requirement.

The Missouri Legislature relaxed the residency requirement last year, allowing Kansas City police officers to live within 30 miles of Kansas City but only in Missouri. The amended policy allows officers to live within 30 miles of Kansas City on either side of the state line.

Police Chief Rick Smith, who retires on Friday, supported the change and said it could help with retention and recruiting.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, a member of the police board, was the only member to oppose it, tweeting that it would lead to a less diverse department.

“I think we're creating an inconsistency with what the state legislature has thought, an inconsistency with the viewpoint of City Council, (and) something that is not proven to enhance either recruiting or retention in some of these markets,” Lucas told the board.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last for Smith, whose position will be filled on an interim basis by Deputy Chief Joseph Maybin. The search for a new police chief could take up to a year, according to Lucas.

Missing persons unit

Tuesday’s meeting was the first since Smith disbanded the police department’s missing persons cold case unit. He cited staffing shortages as the reason.

Maybin said that starting in May, the unit’s detectives will be temporarily reassigned to work overnight shifts that need filling.

“We currently do not have enough detectives working that shift to respond to crime scenes and to interview victims and witnesses,” Maybin said. “Currently we're having detectives from the robbery unit, the domestic violence unit, the assault unit, sex crimes unit, working overnight for seven days in a row on a rotating basis to help out staffing with that shift.”

Maybin said the department would continue to investigate cold cases. Those duties will be divided among the homicide squad, sex crimes squad and juvenile unit, depending on the nature of the case.

Lucas criticized the decision to disband the unit. But Maybin said that as more officers graduate from the police academy, the department will be able to backfill open positions and move detectives back to the unit.

He said the department needs officers to fill overnight shifts, which is when the majority of shootings and violent crimes occur. He assured the board that cold case investigations will not fall by the wayside.

“Right now this plan will allow us to have detectives respond to those scenes, but we can still handle the missing persons and cold case duties from other squads,” Maybin said.

Audit on body camera usage

City Auditor Douglas Jones presented the findings of an audit examining the KCPD’s use of body-worn cameras.

Overall, the audit found that most officers are following the department’s body camera policy, but it noted several possible areas of improvement.

The police department began outfitting officers with body-worn cameras in late 2020, with more than 800 officers getting cameras. The cameras cost about $1.94 million, with funding coming from the Police Foundation of Kansas City.

Between January and August 2021, officers recorded nearly 325,000 videos from body cameras, according to the audit. On average, more than 1,700 videos were recorded daily.

“Most videos were of good quality with unobstructed and clear video and good sound,” Jones said.

Out of a sample of 98 videos recorded in July and August 2021,17 did not record the call for service or interaction in its entirety, according to the audit. Department policy requires officers to activate their body camera “at the outset of each interaction.”

By comparing a sample of dispatch calls to body camera footage, the audit found that 20% of dispatches in those two months were not recorded, failing to comply with department policy.

The audit found that some body camera footage was classified incorrectly, and about 7% of cameras were not docked timely, meaning footage was uploaded 24 hours or more after the video was recorded.

The city auditor issued 11 recommendations to improve the department’s body camera policy. Smith agreed with the recommendations, Jones said.

Among the recommendations:

  • Updating the KCPD’s body camera policy to specify where the cameras should be worn
  • Creating a process to evaluate if officers are recording an entire call
  • Comparing the number of service calls to the number of videos recorded
  • Having periodic body cam training

The City Council and police board have 90 days to review the audit’s findings and issue additional recommendations.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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