Kansas City Council member Alissia Canady is correct about one part of her embarrassing run-in last week with the Police Department.
City officials could put in place clearer rules regarding when a vehicle with expired tags will be towed.
But other than that, Canady was wrong on other key points of the event, which occurred when police threatened to tow her vehicle before eventually just giving her a ticket.
▪ Canady never should have been driving a vehicle with tags that had expired almost three months ago.
That goes double for an elected official in charge of spending public dollars. It probably goes triple for the chairwoman of the council’s public safety committee, meaning she deals with law enforcement officials much of the time.
The council member told me this week: “I’ll take all the knocks for that. I own that. That was my mistake.”
▪ Canady should not have stepped into her vehicle, then initially refused to exit when told to do so by police. This kind of behavior — again, especially from an elected official — was inexcusable.
Canady last week had said she wanted to run the air-conditioner to keep cool.
But the council member told me this week she also knew her vehicle couldn’t be towed with her in it, before properly adding that she “would not want any of my constituents” to follow her example.
On one level, Canady’s incident and the reactions to it are easy to comprehend.
People know that getting vehicle stickers is a slightly onerous part of owning a piece of property. It’s something they have to do no matter how busy they are or how important they consider their jobs. When an elected official refuses to follow society’s rules, many people get irked.
But there also are a few larger moving pieces that deserve examination after something like this occurs.
Canady touched on one of them in telling me that dozens of her friends had told her “glad you weren’t hurt.”
That’s partly a reference to the fact that some black Americans — like Canady — have suffered abuse from police officials over minor incidents in recent years in cities across the country.
While the council member was being attacked on social media after TV and newspaper reports last week, a segment of black Kansas City had far different reactions.
In a statement, Canady also correctly touched on the expenses that some law enforcement actions can create, especially for low-income residents.
“Is it reasonable to incur a towing expense for an infraction that typically calls for a ticket?” she asked. “What is the economic impact to residents? Who benefits from these policies?”
These are hotly debated questions for Kansas City and other municipalities to delve into.
Meanwhile, police do deserve credit for backing off from towing her vehicle.
“Our officers de-escalated the situation, it’s over and we have moved on,” police spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves wrote in an email Wednesday. “We look forward to our continued cooperative relationship with the city, and this incident will not affect that.”
I asked whether Chief Darryl Forté wanted to comment, but Graves said he feels it “does not warrant further discussion.”
(Disclosure: My son is a Kansas City police officer, but he had no role in this event.)
Going forward, Canady said she’d like to get to the point where the “average person” would know what to expect if caught with expired tags on his or her vehicle.
A future review of city policies could lead to that positive outcome, making up for a very negative event in the political life of a first-term council member.