KANSAS CITY, Mo. – ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the city of Kansas City and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners for failing to provide legal recourse if a vehicle was unnecessarily towed or impounded.
Dyanna Black parked her car on a public street in February 2016. She was careful to follow the rules for parking in the area. On returning to the parking spot, Black discovered that her car was no longer there – it had been towed. At the impound lot, Black learned that her car was seized because a Kansas City police officer had written an unwarranted citation for illegal parking. Black’s car was taken to the Kansas City Tow Lot immediately afterward.
Black successfully contested her citation in Kansas City Municipal Court a few months later. She showed she did not park illegally. A judge dismissed her ticket.
However, when Black asked the judge to order a reimbursement of her impound fees, she was told that it wasn’t possible, even though her car was unnecessarily impounded.
“What happens when law enforcement gets it wrong? Kansas City should have a system for reimbursement in place and be accountable to the people who live here,” said Black. “Many people struggle to scrape together the money they need to get their car out of impound so they can get to work or pick up their children, or just do what they need to live.”
Neither the Kansas City Police Department nor the city of Kansas City are able to reimburse someone if the court finds their vehicle was unnecessarily towed and/or impounded.
Kansas City, like many Missouri municipalities, has a history of predatory ticketing and towing. The practice, which pressures law enforcement officers to generate large sums of revenue for their city governments to replace stagnant revenue sources like taxes, disproportionately impacts communities of color.
“Predatory ticketing practices divert law enforcement resources and distance police officers from the communities they serve,” says Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri legal director. “When officers are pushed to raise money instead of creating bonds through their community, it is inevitable that due process rights will be compromised.”