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Gov. Parson names appointee to fill vacancy on Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners

Gov. Mike Parson on Friday announced Madeline Romious — a Kansas City lobbyist and member of a police charity that raises millions for the department annually — as his pick to fill a vacancy on the Board of Police

The announcement came late Friday afternoon among 12 appointments made by the governor, who selects the majority of Kansas City police commissioners to oversee the police department. She will fill a vacancy left by Commissioner Mark Tolbert, a past board president first appointed in 2017.

Efforts by The Star to reach Romious by phone and through social media were unsuccessful late Friday.

State management of the Kansas City Police Department is an unusual arrangement governed by a 1939 law. The police department is controlled by a board of commissioners selected almost entirely in Jefferson City. Four of the five seats are picked by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

The requirement for service is residency in Kansas City. The fifth and only elected seat is automatically held by Kansas City’s mayor.

Commissioners, who serve rotating four-year terms, are responsible for managing the budget, setting policy and making hiring decisions.

Romious is a regional vice president of external affairs for telecommunications giant AT&T. Online records with the Missouri Ethics Commission list her among the active lobbyists representing the company since 2004.

Romious’ past experience in community affairs include the previous chair of the Police Foundation of Kansas City.

The charity has, since 2010, raised money to assist the Kansas City Police Department. In January, the foundation announced a $4 million gift to upgrade the department’s information technology network, among other things.

In announcing the appointment Friday, the governor’s office also highlighted Romious’ work as the chair of arts advocacy group Arts KC and as a board member of PREP-KC, a nonprofit that aims to help low-income schoolchildren with college and career success.

In 2015, Ingram’s Magazine named Romious among its Women Executives-Kansas City.

Appointments to the police board have been contentious in part due to its organizational structure. Critics, especially area activists focused on police reform, have long taken issue with the fact that commissioners wield considerable power over the police department and do not answer to voters at the ballot box.

Also of concern to activists has been a lack of racial diversity on the police board to oversee a department that serves a city where roughly 41% of residents identify as a race other than white. Romious, who is Black, will be the sole woman of color on the board.

Sheryl Ferguson, of the police reform activism group It’sTime4Justice, said Friday she remains concerned that Parson’s selection continues a trend of picking someone “far out of touch with the black community that is affected by actions of law enforcement.”

The appointment comes nine days after the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs rally where 25 people were shot. Authorities have blamed the shooting on an argument that quickly escalated to gunfire, injuring children and bystanders, including a 43-year-old Johnson County woman who died.

The Star’s Glenn E. Rice contributed to this report.