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Raytown aldermen push for stronger oversight of police department

Posted at 7:49 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 11:49:18-05

RAYTOWN, Mo. — Pam Clark has lived in Raytown her entire life. 

"My parents started this business on Jan. 2, 1957," she said of Clark's Appliances, located at E 63rd St. and Raytown Trafficway. 

Nearly one year ago, her family's beloved business burned to the ground. They invested $2.2 million to rebuild at the same location.

"I felt like the community was well worth staying for....I at this point kind of have my doubts about that," Clark said.

She's conflicted after watching $2.7 million slashed from the police department's proposed budget earlier this year. Clark's latest concern is a proposed amendment being discussed at Tuesday's board of aldermen meeting. It would give the city administrator the power to review the police chief's decisions before they go to the board for approval. 

"I think it's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Those people do not know how to run a police department," Clark said of the amendment.

Clark isn't the only concerned Raytown resident. Susan Vorbeck Brown, who created the popular Facebook page "Raytown Unleashed," is also sounding off about the amendment.

"I believe this amendment takes the administrative authority away from Chief Lynch and hands it to the Board. No one on the Board is qualified to make administrative decisions for our police department. They aren't police officers. They haven't had any relevant training... Putting politicians in charge of the police department is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst," Brown wrote to 41 Action News. 

In their request for board action, the three sponsors of the legislation said their intent is not to interfere with day-to-day police operations but to "improve efficiency" and to be consistent with oversight of other city departments. 

One of the sponsors, Alderman Bill Van Buskirk, declined interview but said his intent is to clarify the chain of the command in the city. He pointed to the fact that other departments answer to the city administrator. 

The other two sponsors, aldermen Bonnaye Mims and Mark Moore, didn't answer any of our four calls or emails sent Monday. We even tried knocking on Moore's door but were told he wasn't home.

At the Raytown Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night, Chief Jim Lynch spoke during citizen comments, urging the board not to pass the amendment. At the same time, Lynch acknowledged he was not sure how the legislation would impact the department. 

Clark just hopes the city can move on from the debate surrounding Raytown's Police Department.

"We need businesses, and while you're up there fighting about things like this, businesses are not going to come to town. Move on," she said.

Because City Administrator Tom Cole was not present at Tuesday's meeting, the board tabled further discussion of the legislation until the next Raytown Board of Aldermen meeting on November 21.