The Fraternal Order of Police: The Blue Hand Around the Throat of Kansas City, Missouri

Andrei Stoica - Managing Editor

Police reacting to protesters in front of the KCMO PD headquarters.

Photo by Andrei Stoica

The Fraternal Order of Police: The Blue Hand Around the Throat of Kansas City, Missouri

10/10/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

By Andrei Stoica

While most residents in larger American cities know the names of their mayor, maybe some city council members and possibly their police chief, as is the case in Kansas City Missouri, most don't expect that there is a hidden side to decisions concerning police. In KCMO, choices about policing and public safety are strongly influenced by the local Fraternal Order of Police, and usually it's to protect the “thin blue line" and its ability to obscure misconduct. The case of Ryan Stokes and its deadly prologue is one example that shows how this line promotes deceit when a former officer who refuted the narrative felt forced to leave the KCMO PD.

The FOP got its start as a small labor union in 1915 in Pittsburgh. At the time, according to their history page a police officer's life was hard with 15 hour days. “And so it began, a tradition of police officers representing police officers” their page explains. Between their national expansion in 1917 to now, they have grown to more than 2,100 lodges and 355,000 members. Going by their own website again they have had a "strong influence in the legislatures in various states” since well before today.

Let's take a glance at how they hold that strong influence and how they use it against transparency. One example is how they filed a grievance against outside agencies like the Missouri Highway Patrol investigating officer-involved shootings in June. Another way they protect their interest is to allow cops involved in on-duty incidents access to videos and incident reports before giving interviews or written statements before an investigation. A second concern about transparency is what is known as the “48 Hour Rule”. It is a part of the FOP contract that gives officers up to 48 hours to give their written statement. Another local issue that I doubt is exclusive to KCMO is that Brad Lemon, president of Kansas City FOP lodge, has gone on record to defend incidents of obvious misconduct from his officers, like in the case of Breonna Hill that ended with two officers charged with assault. The real issue is that cities under the grip of this organization and other police unions can't do much since in some cases the union essentially threatens to reduce policing to cause fear and dependency.

The calls for change from citizens are aimed at the city council and the mayor in most cases, especially here in KCMO. Unfortunately when it comes to public safety there is a powerful blue wall that keeps the public eyes away from how their own police protect their neighborhoods. That wall also happens to defend the practice of using officers who do not live in the areas they patrol, a practice that furthers the divide between “us” and “them”.

This wall has been built for over 100 years and re-enforced to create a near impenetrable barrier. This is not something that needs re-evaluated and allowed to continue to stand. It is a structure that needs to be demolished, because as long as it is perpetuated, people will continue to be abused and killed while the FOP hides behind grand juries, internal investigations and qualified immunity.