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A Sunday announcement at church sparked some fire and brimstone at the Richmond City Council Tuesday night. The council chambers were packed last night and the scheduled meeting start time had to be delayed by 10 minutes due to the crowd still in the hallway at 6:30 p.m.
Many of the residents in attendance may have been confused by an announcement that was given at the Richmond United Methodist Church on Sunday by Rev. Bill Bamman.
Councilmen Terrie Stanley and Mike Wright both said they fielded several calls on Monday confused about the announcement. According to Stanley, those concerned told her that Bamman’s sermon centered on concerns that Councilman Jason Berning had brought to him about the rest of the City Council. Councilman Dave Powell said he had heard about similar conversations at other churches.
People who attended the service said during the announcement period, Bamman said church member and Councilman Jason Berning informed him that the idea of a volunteer police department was being discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting. He suggested for people interested in the matter to attend.
“Why don’t we get down to why there are a lot of people here this evening,” Stanley said during last night’s meeting. “Where did that come from? I’m asking you, Jason.”
Berning shrugged his shoulders and did not answer Stanley’s question. Berning declined to comment after the meeting as to whether or not he expressed an opinion to Bamman.
“It was a lie!” Stanley said after the meeting. “Not only should he apologize to the council but he should be accountable for what he did. He hung Mr. Bamman out to dry by not being accountable. He confused them (the people who heard the announcement), he angered them and it was utter chaos. It’s easy to start a rumor and that rumor affected everyone.”
Some anger was also directed towards an agenda item to eliminate the Police Personnel Board along with the police merit system. Ordinance Committee Chairman Roger Kepple said the ordinance should have never been included in the council’s packet until the committee had time to review it and make changes or recommendations.
Kepple said the item is being discussed because several people brought concerns to his attention. Kepple said former Police Chief Doug Porter was against the merit system.
Per Kepple’s motion, the council removed the ordinance from the agenda to be sent back to the Ordinance Committee. Berning then questioned Kepple as to why he wanted to remove the item and questioned whether or not they wanted to do away with the board.
“People think we’re trying to eliminate the police department or something like that,” Kepple said. “That has nothing to do – there is no relevance at all. We’re trying to look at it from all sides.”
Police Personnel board member Terry Compton asked the council to not consider the elimination of the board.
“I don’t want to see us take a step backwards by removing the police personnel board,” Compton said. “We don’t need to be hiring lesser people to protect our homes, our property and our children.”
Compton later in the meeting got into an exchange with Stanley over the hiring of two additional police officers in which he accused her of not caring about the safety of citizens after she talked about a study she conducted of other police departments around the area. Stanley used Oak Grove as her main example but said she studied many other cities including Excelsior Springs, Lexington and Marshall.
“Your numbers do not work here,” Compton said. “My safety has got to be a priority for you as a council person and apparently it’s not.”
Compton then interrupted Stanley as she answered with, “You’ve made it clear.”
“I don’t want to cut back. We have no choice with that amount of money,” Stanley said. “I’m not just trying to throw out figures here to be indignant or rude to you. I’m trying to let you know what’s out there.”
Lee’s Summit Police Officer and Vice President of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police Rick Inglima was ushered to the front by former Councilwoman Thurza Falls who spoke in favor of hiring the police officers earlier.
Inglima chastised the council for picking on the police department when it comes to budget cuts. He said decreasing the size of the police force would lead to higher insurance rates and people leaving town.
“I continue to hear you talk about you’re here to serve the citizens of Richmond,” Inglima said in a sharp tone. “Are the children of Richmond not citizens as well? Is it not important for them to be protected in their schools? How are you protecting your citizens? It’s already budget money.
“It seems like your police department is continually the unfair focus of who you want to attack,” he continued. “The only reason you want to get rid of people without due process and with merit or cause is political purpose. You want a lesser police department.”
Kepple took exception to Inglima’s comments.
“I resent that accusation that we are trying to eliminate the police department,” Kepple said. “We’re not eliminating the merit system at this point.
Inglima further questioned the council and said they were eliminating positions.
“We don’t want to have officers?” Kepple asked, about Inglima’s comments that the city was reducing the police force. “We shouldn’t investigate things?”
Kepple also pointed out that the council had tabled the issue of hiring more officers until the city audit has returned. Mayor Lance Green said the audit would be available at the next council meeting.
Police Chief Terri McWilliams said the department might have to cancel the school resource officer program if the officers are not hired.
Photo: A large crowd packed the Richmond City Council chambers last night for a council meeting. It was the biggest crowd the council had seen in more than a year. Most in attendance were concerned about issues with the police department. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)