Kennett mayor's speeding directive sparks controversy

Thursday, February 5, 2004

KENNETT, Mo. -- Kennett Mayor Donald Parker took fast action Tuesday on the problem of speeding motorists within city limits.

In an unprecedented move Parker ordered police chief Barry Tate to start enforcing the city speed limit, enacting a city ordinance stating the chief of police is subject to the order of the mayor.

Parker said he has met with Tate a number of times and asked that speeding laws in the city be enforced. In January only six speeding tickets had been issued by police, Parker said, which prompted him to order the chief to take action in the form of a letter he read to the council.

As Parker began reading the letter, he was interrupted by Councilman Tracy Smith who asked if Tate had been given a copy of the letter. An exchange between the two ensued during which Parker proceeded to read the letter as Smith questioned whether Tate had previously been issued a copy. Parker refused to give Smith the floor, saying the councilman was out of order, and finished reading the letter before opening the floor to Tate.

"If you're through humiliating me I'll address them," Tate said. "Of course I want to look at this first. No, I had not received a copy."

He said he could not promise anything because of a lack of manpower. Parker said he knew such a program would have to be flexible, but said other concerns for not checking speeders had been raised and the council had responded to each request, including purchasing radar guns and training officers how to use them.

"I'm embarrassed by this, my department is going to be embarrassed by this, and this is not going to end here," Tate said at the end of the meeting.

The program outlined in the mayor's letter included patrolling three days a week with two hours between 6 a.m. and noon and two hours between noon and 6 p.m.; special emphasis placed on St. Francis Street, First Street and Independence Avenue; having a senior officer present at all of the outlined positions; and submission of a report at each council meeting showing the number of days this program was implemented, the number of vehicles stopped, the number of warnings issued and the number of speeding tickets issued.

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