JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Senators took the first step this week towards banning chokeholds for law enforcement, but the legislation also includes residency requirements for Kansas City Police Officers.
The bill is a bipartisan effort between St. Louis Democratic Sen. Brian Williams and Kansas City area Republican Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer.
Senate Bill 53 relaxes residency requirements for the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD), but Williams said in order to get that past the finish line in the Senate, the bill needs police reform.
“If you want policy residency, then it’s not going to move forward without police reforms and I’ve been saying that for almost a year now,” Williams said. “Folks that have been waiting for monumental police reform since the death of Michael Brown would be very happy. I think it’s going to be a game changer for the state.”
Williams grew up in Ferguson, where in 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed.
“The community that I came from, became a national symbol for what happens between police and the community when it breaks down,” Williams said.
His legislation would allow the department to prevent officers from bouncing around to other departments.
“It would stop chokeholds, would stop sexual misconduct by officers with this bill, but will also help brave men and women who wear the uniform to protect their honored profession and have their backs,” Williams said.
Williams said this measure would help grow relationships between police and the community.
“Implementing these must-needed police reforms, I think that’s one thing we can do considering the fact we cannot bring any of these black lives back and if we get this across the finish line, I think it would say to the rest of the county that Missouri is committed to protecting black lives,” Williams said.
The other part of this bill is sponsored by Luetkemeyer.
“A lot of civil unrest of the last year have made it increasingly difficult for large metropolitican departments like the Kansas City Police Department to recruit and retain officers,” Luetkemeyer said.
Luetkemeyer’s legislation relaxes the residency requirements for KCPD, allowing them to live within 30 miles of response time, on the Missouri side.
This bill is similar to the one lawmakers passed during a special session in the fall, allowing St. Louis police officers and other emergency personnel to live within one hour of the city. Currently, police officers must live in the city for one year prior to starting their job.
“What I believe is by removing the archaic residency requirements that’s been in place, we’re going to broaden the pool of applications of individuals who are now eligible to be police officers in one of the largest police departments in the state,” Luetkemeyer said.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Tuesday night he is against the relaxed residency rules, saying, “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 said this type of measure is important for officers.
“Making sure to strike that balance where you have meaningful reforms while at the same time not making it more difficult to do an already very difficult job,” Luetkemeyer said.
The bill also creates a penalty for anti-doxxing which means anyone that uses the internet to threaten or harass a police officer or their family will be charged with a Class E felony.
SB 53 now heads to the House for approval.