Kansas City, Missouri, Police sued for violating the 1868 Fourteenth Amendment

Three local Black Americans filed suit March 11 against Missouri Governor Parson, Attorney General Bailey, Secretary of State Ashcroft and the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Police Commissioners for failing to provide equal protection under Missouri law to residents of Kansas City. The suit notes that Chapter 84 of Missouri statutes denies local control of the Kansas City Police Department and instead gives that control to the Board of Police Commissioners appointed by the Governor. Worse, Missouri state law mandates that over 25% of Kansas City’s general revenue be given to this police department. That law dates from an 1861 attempt by the Missouri legislature to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War and was updated under Jim Crow in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment adopted in 1868.1  

One of the plaintiffs is the mother of Ryan Stokes, who was allegedly unarmed and surrendering when he was shot and killed a decade ago by a KCMO police officer.2 The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Spencer Webster.3

This is case is “Johnson v. Parson(4:24-cv-00174) filed in federal court in the Western district of Missouri.4 The plaintiffs are requesting a jury trial. 

Webster and Executive Director of the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equality (MORE2 or “MORE-squared”),5 Lora McDonald, discuss this case with attorney and professor at the University of Kansas Karl Brooks and Radio Active Magazine regular Spencer Graves. 

Early history of Missouri state control of big city police 

In 1861-02-26 “An Act Creating a Board of Police Commissioners and Authorizing the Appointment of a Police Force for the City of St. Louis” was introduced into the Missouri state senate.6 The previous November 6, Abraham Lincoln had been elected President. By February 26, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia Louisiana and Texas had seceded. That act became law 1861-03-27, twenty-three days after Lincoln became president and before the attack on Ft. Sumter April 12. At that time, the upper south, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, were still part of the union. They didn’t secede until after Lincoln had asked for 75,000 militia to stop the rebellion.7

Note on dates: Full dates in this article are written in ISO 8601 format, YYYY-MM-DD. That international standard eliminates confusion and makes it relatively easy to compute differences between dates.8

Copyright 2024 Lora McDonald, Spencer Webster, Karl Brooks, Spencer Graves: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 international license.


  1. Josh Merchant, 2022-12-20, “State control of Kansas City’s police has roots in the Civil War“, Kansas City Beacon (https://kcbeacon.org/stories/2022/12/20/kcpd-state-local-control-history-police-board/); all links here accessed 2024-03-15.
  2. Joe Hennessy (2023-08-04) “Ten years later, family revisits the shooting death of Ryan Stokes by Kansas City Police”, KCTV5 (https://www.kctv5.com/2023/08/04/ten-years-later-family-revisits-shooting-death-ryan-stokes-by-kansas-city-police/).
  3. Spencer Webster, Webster Law LLC (https://swebsterlaw.com/).
  4. Johnson v. Parson (4:24-cv-00174) filed 2024-03-11 in the US Federal court for the Western District of Missouri, assigned to Judge Mary Elizabeth Phillips (https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/68331899/johnson-v-parson/).
  5. MORE2 (https://more2.org/).
  6. Rachel Lippman (2013-08-31) “Controlling crime, and the police who fight it“, St. Louis Public Radio (https://apps.stlpublicradio.org/millennium-mayor/episodes/04.html).
  7. Wikiversity, “Expertise of military leaders and national security experts” (https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Expertise_of_military_leaders_and_national_security_experts).
  8. Wikiversity, “ISO 8601 and computing differences between dates” (https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/ISO_8601_and_computing_differences_between_dates).

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