Street view of the Kansas City Police Headquarters. The building is inscribed with "Municipal Courts" and "Police Headquarters Building," as well as the address, "1125 Locust"
The Board of Police Commissioners regularly meets in the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Headquarters once every month. (Zachary Linhares/The Beacon)

Forty-eight hours.

That’s the window of time a police officer with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department has to give a formal statement following a police killing or other violent incident, according to the department’s latest union contract. The Kansas City Beacon obtained a copy of the bargaining agreement through a public records request.

The 48-hour rule regarding use-of-force incidents was criticized by both Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office and Kansas City social justice organizations because it affords officers additional time that civilians don’t get when involved in a violent incident. With the George Floyd protests last summer bringing more attention to police violence in Kansas City, local activists and leaders had hoped the new police union contract would get rid of the policy.

It didn’t. 

This policy is outlined in the new bargaining agreement between the Board of Police Commissioners, the state-appointed entity overseeing the KCPD, and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99, the police union representing law enforcement members. The latest bargaining agreement was finalized this month after expiring in January. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

KCPD officers granted wide-ranging protections, including 48 hours

According to stipulations in the new bargaining agreement, police officers involved in use-of-force cases — referred to more generally as “incidents that may give rise to discipline” — are afforded a number of protections in the reporting and investigative process. This includes policies ranging from receiving notice of and access to internal investigations to receiving back pay during an investigation. These provisions were carried over from the previous contract.

In addition, officers asked to provide a statement or participate in an investigation involving a use-of-force incident are allowed 24 hours to obtain an attorney or a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police. Officers are also provided notice of a formal investigation that informs them of the violation and the agency conducting the investigation, according to the bargaining agreement.

An officer must be given a copy of the complaint against them at least 24 hours before the interrogation. These interviews are conducted by the Internal Affairs Unit of the KCPD or another agency or officer chosen by the chief of police. An officer is allowed to request the entire record of an investigation, including audio and video recordings, transcripts and any related documents. The officer is also allowed to meet with the disciplinary coordinator after receiving the aforementioned documents to provide any information they think should be considered as part of the disciplinary process. 

Officers will continue to receive pay during an investigative process, according to the bargaining agreement. Specifically, officers required to give a statement to Internal Affairs or submit to a polygraph exam will be paid overtime. Officers suspended without pay can still receive compensation, which is paid if they are reinstated.

Once the Internal Affairs investigation is completed, the contract stipulates that the disciplinary coordinator can request an officer to submit their version of events. The disciplinary coordinator has the authority to recommend a suspension without pay up to a maximum of five days. A disciplinary determination exceeding a five-day suspension has to be reviewed and approved by the chief of police. 

If an officer is terminated or resigns, overtime pay earned during the suspension period will still be paid. 

“Sounds like the FOP does a great job on behalf of their officers, but the Board of Police Commissioners unfortunately doesn’t do a great job on behalf of the taxpayers of KC,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “It’d be great if we had the same type of leadership and fortitude from the BOPC as the FOP receives from Brad Lemon.”

New bargaining agreement covers body camera policy

The KCPD began issuing body-worn cameras to all police officers last summer following the Floyd protests. The new union contract stipulates how body camera or dash cam footage can be used in an investigation. Officers involved in an investigation are permitted to review body cam or dash cam video before providing a formal statement. This is consistent with the previous contract.

“This is emblematic of the two-tiered justice system that we’ve been calling out,” Grant said. “There’s one set of rules for the police, and a second set of rules for the general, average citizen. Anyone else who is being investigated for a crime doesn’t have access to that information until charges have been filed and they’re going to trial.”

Grant said the policy allows officers to see body camera footage long before the public, allowing them to get their stories straight. Missouri permits body camera footage to be held from the public while an investigation is ongoing.

Some union rights now codified in Missouri law

The new bargaining agreement comes after the state legislature passed the “police bill of rights” as part of Senate Bill 26 during the spring session, which mandates specific protections for officers statewide. 

Some of the bill’s provisions are already encoded into the bargaining agreement, like officers’ right to have an attorney present during questioning, and their ability to request the full investigative report. Others, like the requirement for an investigation to be completed within 90 days, do not appear in the union contract. 

The provisions in the police bill of rights take effect Aug. 28.

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Emily Wolf was a local government accountability reporter with a focus on telling meaningful stories through data at The Kansas City Beacon. She was a Report for America corps member.