The vote was 3-2. Board president Leland Shurin voted for Chief Keith Humphrey of Norman, Okla., as did Mayor Sly James — the only member of the police board who has ever faced the city’s voters.
Of the three board members who voted for Smith, two of them — Michael Rader and Angela Wasson-Hunt — are serving expired terms. The third, Nathan Garrett, was appointed to the board by the governor just hours before the final vote.
After only one day in his new post, Garrett cast the deciding vote for Kansas City’s new chief.
By most accounts, Garrett played an active role in listening to potential candidates during the weeks leading up to the selection. He had actually been appointed earlier in the year by Gov. Eric Greitens, but the appointment was rescinded temporarily, probably for procedural reasons.
Garrett knew he would be reappointed. He tried to play an informal role in the selection process until that happened.
He was out of the state Monday and not available for comment.
Yet the timeline reinforces our concern that the governor — any governor — has far too much influence in what should be a local decision. The deciding vote came from a board member hand-picked by Greitens and sworn in just hours before.
But there’s more. The other two votes for Smith came from board members serving expired terms. While we have no indication either approached the decision in bad faith, it is fair to ask if any soon-to-be-ex-board member would be fully engaged in the process.
Some Kansas Citians are upset with the pick of Rick Smith. Some members of the minority community are uneasy, and there are worries about Smith’s role in the investigation of a former Catholic priest and child pornography.
We’ve said some complaints are unavoidable. That’s why the handling of the search and selection are so important: Kansas Citians must have faith in this process and in their police chief.
That faith is eroded when a chief is picked by two retiring board members and a new member serving before being confirmed by the state Senate.
And make no mistake: Greitens will pick the replacements for the retiring members and eventually Shurin’s successor, too. That means he’ll control four of the five seats on Kansas City’s police board.
No governor should have that much direct influence on public safety in this community. Local control of Kansas City’s police department remains a critical and unfulfilled goal.