Outdated KCPD salary caps removed

The Missouri House and Senate have approved bills to remove salary caps for all ranks, helping short-staffed Kansas City Police Department recruit and retain officers.

John Sharp

South KC Perspective

By John Sharp

Different versions of legislation to help the short-staffed Kansas City Police Department recruit and retain enough officers to adequately protect our spread out city by removing outdated salary caps in state law for officers of all ranks have now sailed through the Missouri House and Senate with negligible opposition.

The House version of this legislation (House Committee Substitute for House Bills 640 & 729 removes the salary caps for all ranks and authorizes the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners to establish pay ranges for all ranks from beginning police officers through the police chief.

That legislation also removes the discriminatory language in state law that prohibits hiring a chief who is more than 60 years of age.

That measure passed the House February 21 by a vote of 151-3, with three additional representatives voting present.  Only one area representative voted no.

An emergency clause was added to the bill to make it effective as soon as it is signed into law by the governor.  It noted “immediate action is necessary to maintain a competitive pay scale to aid in recruitment and retention of Kansas City police officers”.

Soon after its House passage, the Senate approved a similar but much longer 28 page bill (Senate Substitute for Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bills 119 & 120) that removes the salary caps for all ranks, but also covers several other topics dealing with public safety.

The Senate version does not repeal the discriminatory language prohibiting hiring a chief over 60 years of age and does not include an emergency clause.  It passed the Senate on February 23 by a vote of 32-1.

Passage of legislation to make Kansas City police salaries more competitive to aid in recruiting top quality applicants and to minimize losing officers to surrounding jurisdictions that pay higher salaries and have less stressful and less dangerous working conditions due to much lower violent crime rates has been a top priority of the Public Safety Coalition – a group of business, civic, faith-based and neighborhood groups organized by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.  

The Coalition includes the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the South Kansas City Alliance and prominent area faith leaders.

Major James Buck, the commander of the South Patrol Division, noted that a shortage of officers generally leaves his evening watch from about 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. with an average of about 8 officers per shift, and the overnight watch from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. averages only about 5 officers per shift.

During the overnight watch he said other divisions often have to send their officers to respond to 911 calls in South Patrol, sometimes responding from as much as 15 to 20 miles away.

Overall, he said he estimates that South Patrol has about 12 to 15 less officers to respond to incidents than it had at the beginning of 2022.

He said the latest statistics he’s seen placed the Kansas City Police Department around the middle to lower half of law enforcement agencies in the region on salaries, especially starting salaries.  He said this doesn’t even count additional benefits some other departments provide such as fully paid insurance.

Recruiting and retaining officers is now much more competitive than he’s ever seen in his 28 years in law enforcement, he added.

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