The Kansas City Missouri Police Department had its beginning April 15, 1874, when the Board of Police Commissioners, with George Caleb Bingham (famed Missouri artist) as its president, appointed Thomas M. Speers to fill the office from April 15, 1874, to May 4, 1895. No chief since that time has held the office as long as Chief Speers. Chief Clarence M. Kelley, who in 1973 resigned to become the second permanent Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was head of the Kansas City Police Department almost twelve years and was second in the length of time he served the citizens of Kansas City. Both of these men were far advanced in their talents and actions in the field of law enforcement, capable of giving the most to the citizens of Kansas City for the dollars spent and the manpower available.
Kansas City Missouri Police Department
1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
In front of the Police Headquarters stands a statue of a police officer holding a small child in his arms. The monument in itself relates a story, but a closer look reveals119 names engraved in the stone - men who gave their lives in upholding the oath they took at the time they became police officers.
These men gave everything with the hope that their sacrifice would make the city a better place to live. If space permitted, each name would make a story well worth telling.
Since the appointment of Chief Speers, Kansas City has been served by 34 men as head of the department. A search into history of the background of each of these men soon reveals that each had an outstanding gift of leadership and responsibility that suited them for the important office they filled.
The City Council, heavily swayed by a corrupt Tom Pendergast, approved a home-rule ordinance in 1932 that brought KCPD under city governance for the first time since its 1874 inception. Previously, it was governed by a board of men appointed by the governor. Corruption of the police force ensued.
In 1939, Missouri Attorney General Roy McKeltside came down hard on the corruption generated by the Pendergast Machine. Missouri Governor Lloyd Stark had the police department returned to state control under commissioners that he appointed. Thus was reinstated the original form of KCPD governance – a governor-appointed Board of Police Commissioners, and it’s the system we use today. (An historical note: this new Board in 1939 appointed a new police chief, Lear B. Reed, and charged him with rooting corruption out of the force. About 50 percent of KCPD employees were fired at that time.)
Today, the Board of Police Commissioners governs a department with more than 1,400 officers and 600 civilians. These department members are dedicated to serving all those who live, work and play in Kansas City, Mo.