In letter to St. Louis mayor, James supports local control of police

Mayor Sly James of Kansas City has sent a letter to Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis supporting the statewide ballot measure to give St. Louis control of its Police Department.

And in his letter, James sets the stage to move Kansas City in the same direction toward local police control.

St. Louis and Kansas City are the only two cities in the country where the authority for the police departments rests with state-appointed boards.

But an initiative petition drive has placed a measure on the November ballot that would give St. Louis local police control for the first time in 150 years.

“It is clear St. Louis has come to community consensus and now wants control of its own police department. Mayor Slay, please know I support you and St. Louis City in your effort,” James wrote in his letter, dated Friday.

“In my opinion, local control offers opportunities for financial stability and political accountability that are not readily available under the current system.”

James goes on to note that if St. Louis should be successful in the November election, that would make Kansas City the only city in the nation without local police control.

While the city funds the Police Department, it doesn’t dictate how that money is spent.

But Kansas City hasn’t yet reached the consensus that St. Louis has on the issue.

Members of Kansas City’s police board and some in the Police Department vehemently oppose local control.

They argue that state control gives them more autonomy and insulates them from meddling by the City Council.

Mayoral spokesman Danny Rotert said James wants to start a conversation to see if Kansas City can build a consensus for local control.

If that effort succeeds, Rotert said, the city might ask the Missouri General Assembly next spring to authorize it. That would be easier than a statewide initiative.

“We will address this issue in our own fashion,” James wrote to Slay. “We will consider your experiences as you transition to local control and incorporate them into our deliberations regarding the governance of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department in the future. I have no doubt that your experiences in this historic transformation will be both informative and invaluable as Kansas City considers its options.”