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Funding for Independence police body cameras results in political kerfuffle

Independence Police Department Cruiser
Posted at 9:07 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 23:42:14-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The Independence Police Department is trying to catch up with other surrounding departments that have body-worn cameras for their officers, but paying for them has become a political hot potato.

In some aspects, Independence officers are stuck in the 20th century relying on dash cameras to visually document their interactions with the public.

"But what good is that going to do for an officer that walks up to a door?" said Tara Kruse, who supports body cameras for Independence police.

Kruse, who oversees the neighborhood watch in the Sycamore Hills area, believes the cameras would help with accountability and transparency.

"They need them to keep them safe. They need them to keep us safe," Kruse said. "They need them as training tools. They need them to make sure that everybody is safe."

She voiced that at Monday's city council meeting along with several others.

"Do you expect to have necessary equipment to perform your jobs?" said April Schuler, another proponent for cameras.

The remarks before city leaders tackled a proposal from Second District Councilmember Brice Stewart that would allocate more than $670,000 for body-worn cameras from federal stimulus money the city is receiving.  

"I would argue in the last year, year and a half, a lot of officers are wanting, or wanting body cameras," said IPD Deputy Chief Ken Jarnagin.

When the measure failed, Fourth District Councilmember Daniel Hobart chimed in.

"This is not 1983 and we're looking at the Sears Wish Book," Hobart said. "Not a single councilperson has any business randomly shopping for the police department, and neither do citizens."

His remarks went on for more than 10 minutes, upsetting at least one of his colleagues, who left in the middle of him speaking, and Kruse.

"We elected him. He works for us. It's not the other way around," Kruse said. "And my point in my speech was that he's supposed to be the voices of the people, and he's not even listening to us."

Kruse, who lives in Hobart's district, has filed a petition to recall him.

According to a city spokesperson:

"As outlined in Chapter 7.9 of the City Charter, the group has 30 days to gather the signatures of 8% of the registered voters in the 4th district in the last General Election. Signatures must be turned in on or before Nov. 4. The signatures will then be turned over to the Jackson County Election Board for certification. The earliest a recall could be placed on the ballot is April."

Kruse plans to collect the necessary signatures over the next few weeks. 

"Nobody should feel unsafe in their city, and until the local government starts helping the police departments there, they're just not going to be safe," she said.

In an email to KSHB 41 News, Hobart wrote:

"I stand by my comments of Monday night.
As a practicing criminal defense lawyer of 23 years I support body cameras.
Body cameras should be budgeted for, purchased and implemented when Police leadership is able to do that in Independence.
I have no comment on the recall effort."