Missouri Senate moves to lift restriction on KCPD residency prerequisite among other law enforcement changes

Both Mayor Quinton Lucas and Chief Rick Smith oppose the changes, so you know it's reaaaaal bad.
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Mayor Quinton Lucas and KCPD Chief Rick Smith at a previous press conference at City Hall. // Photo by Abbey Higginbotham.

In a 30-4 vote, the Missouri senate voted on Monday to lift the requirement that KCPD officers reside within city limits.

The bill, which has advanced to House includes several other law enforcement related changes, such as a ban on chokeholds.

The proposed ban on chokeholds follows years of campaigning for police reform in light of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MO. Efforts to ban chokeholds have intensified following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last March, where policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, killing him. Chauvin is currently on trial for murder.

A chokehold is currently defined by the bill 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.”

According to KCUR, spokesman for KCPD, Sgt. Jake Becchina said that the agency would not be affected if the bill becomes a 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,” says Becchina to KCUR.

Instead of teaching chokeholds, KCPD teaches officers to use a lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) which is similar to a chokehold but is designed to cut off blood flow rather than airflow.

Regardless of KCPD not teaching chokeholds, Kansas City has had its own share of “I can’t breathe” cases. In 2014, for example, Craig McKinnis was killed by police during a traffic stop. His girlfriend, Phyllis Salazar, the driver of the vehicle witnessed the incident and reportedly heard McKinnis tell police he could not breathe.

According to the lawsuit Salazar filed against KCPD, the police officer attempting to detain McKinnis responded by saying, “If you can talk you can breath (sic).”

Additionally, a 15-year-old Black man sustained injuries by inflicted by police while being restrained with a chokehold. In November 2019 the victim was stopped by police because the driver of the car he was in was mistaken for a burglary suspect. Both the driver and passenger excited the car and got on their knees with their hands above their head.

The 15-year-old was handcuffed by Sgt. Matthew Neal and Officer Dylan Pifer. The teen, who was not resisting arrest, was then thrown onto his stomach causing his head to slam into the concrete and Neal knelt on his neck.

In dashcam footage of arrest, the victim can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” as Neal continued to kneel on his neck. The victim suffered a large gash on his head which required stitches and his front teeth were broken.

Originally Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who introduced the residency arrangement, wanted to give officers the option to live within a 60 mile radius outside of Kansas City. Following a long debate last week with Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, Luetkemeyer decreased the distance to a 30 mile radius and added a requirement that officers be Missouri residents.

The bill passed Senate regardless of opposition from both Mayor Quinton Lucas and KCPD Chief Rick Smith.

Last Tuesday, Lucas tweeted, “Such a 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.”

Luetkemeyer’s rebuttal was that many KCPD officers already live north of the river, far from the inner city and outside of areas with high crime rates.

“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.”

Currently all Kansas City employees must live within city limits. New police officers are given a one year grace period to obtain area residency which starts the day they begin the police academy.


Categories: Politics