Kansas City Police Board’s Nathan Garrett Is A Good Change

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Nathan Garrett’s decision to leave the Kansas City Police Commissioners Council gives Governor Mike Parson and the community a real chance to reform the police – and a police department tied to the city, not at war with it.

Garrett’s resignation from the police commission was submitted on Friday and made public on Monday. His four-year term expired in March, but under state law he continued to serve.

In an email, Garrett said he was leaving town for Smithville. In his resignation letter, Garrett defended his case to the police board.

“We… have always strived to meet challenges with integrity, determination and an unwavering desire to do what is right, however unpopular,” he wrote.

Garrett will not be missed. Appointed to his post by disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, Garrett has proven to be a cheerleader for Police Chief Rick Smith and nothing else. He was particularly deaf when the community repeatedly asked him to reconsider the way Kansas City enforces its laws.

Kansas City set a record for homicides during Garrett’s tenure.

There is more. Garrett is a partner at Graves Garrett, a law firm that includes former US Attorney Todd Graves. Parson recently integrated Graves into the Missouri Conservative Council, giving the law firm tremendous power in state and local governments.

One of the lawyers employed by Graves Garrett is Lucinda Luetkemeyer, the wife of Missouri State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville. It was the state legislator who passed a new law allowing Kansas City police officers to live outside the city limits.

Senator Luetkemeyer is also at the front of the parade of non-residents threatening Mayor Quinton Lucas and others for their daring to hold the police to account. The potential for a conflict involving Nathan Garrett’s service on the police board and the Luetkemeyers seems clear.

Now Parson will appoint a replacement. We urge him to reach out to community groups and leaders in Kansas City and seek their advice on someone qualified to help run the department. Right now, in this place, the selection of a new member of the police commission is critical.

Politics must play no role – I repeat, no role – in this decision. The purpose of a police board is to remove policy from the police services. Sadly, Nathan Garrett failed this standard.

To be clear: If Kansas City had full control of its police department, which is the case in every other major American city, replacing Garrett wouldn’t be a problem. Garrett’s service either. We continue to believe that local control of the police service should be a top priority for local decision-makers.

As the BOPC system remains in place, however, the governor has a deep responsibility to appoint someone linked to the wider community and with new ideas on policing and law enforcement.

To that end, Lucas sent a letter to his fellow police council members on Monday, suggesting a new approach to debating police issues outside the city. He wants a monthly witness protection report, no doubt a reaction to the news that the department has rarely used the tools given to it by Jefferson City.

Gun violence should be the number one agenda item every month, Lucas believes. Neighborhood groups should be invited to testify. He called for further study of staffing history, crime data and decision making.

All are good suggestions. The police commission must stop shielding Chief Smith from criticism and helping the ministry reduce violent crime and murder. There can be no other priority.

Nathan Garrett’s decision to step down is a good start to this effort. If the Governor can find a suitable replacement, that will be the first good news to come from this 12th Locust meeting room in some time.

This story was originally published June 14, 2021 3:20 pm.

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