Kansas City Police Historical Society
Lear B. Reed
Lear B. Reed served as chief of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department from July 11, 1939 to September 30, 1941.
Reed was a lawyer and former agent of the FBI, serving in the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office. He received his law degree from Georgetown University and joined the FBI in 1925. Special Agent Reed had been assigned to the Union Station Massacre case and aided in running down Pretty Boy Floyd who was slain in Ohio, the Lindberg kidnaping, the Alvin Karpis case and the Kansas City voter fraud cases.
He was offered the appointment of Chief of the Kansas City Police Department in a clandestine meeting with the newly created Board of Police Commissioners as the KCPD was brought back under state control in 1939. Governor Lloyd Stark appointed a new Board of Police Commissioners, consisting of prominent attorney Edgar Shook, Russel Greiner, Calvin Coolige, and Milton Schweiger.
Having been offered the positon, and after consulting with Director J. Edgar Hoover, Lear ended his fourteen year career with the FBI and began his new mission as Kansas City Chief of Police. He was to purge the 679 member department of the corruption that became so prevalent under machine control during the 1930’s. Chief Reed served a term of just over two years. He authored a book “Human Wolves” where he declares that he aged five years during the first six months of his tenure.
In his memoirs, Chief Reed recounts many offers of lavish bribes in the form of trips, money, and real estate tendered to dissuade him from his mission. In one instance Lear recounts a situation where one “promoter of nefarious operations” sampled his blackjack, losing some teeth and his hat between Lear’s desk and the door after “firing the indignation of a country boy raised on honesty.”
Under Reed’s tenure, there were efforts to modernize the department including the establishment of a crime laboratory, improved training, and acquisition of modern radio equipment.
At his retirement in 1941, the Milwaukee Journal highlighted some of the changes made during Reed’s tenure such as changing the police uniforms to military khaki. Changing Kansas City’s wide open image by setting closing times for taverns, closing down race book shops, gambling dens and games that permeated shops and dotted almost every downtown block, and put an end to the wide open days in Kansas City and its reputation as a gangster ridden town. He incorporated a policy of fingerprinting all arrests. He organized youth clubs for children expressing the view point that crime begins in the high chair not the electric chair.
When Chief Reed announced his retirement in 1941, the Board of Police Commissioners expressed their desire to continue his reform policies and appointed Harold Anderson, 39, chief of police. Chief Anderson was a career policeman in whom Chief Reed expressed faith. Following his retirement in November 1941, he accepted a position as auditor with Montgomery Ward in Chicago. He returned to Kansas City in 1948 and started the Lear Reed Institute for Investigators. He later became editor for the Compton California Journal.
Reed was a Freemason and served in both WWI and WWII retiring from Army service as a Lt Colonel. He was with the Department of State from 1952 to 1963 when he moved to Richmond.
Reed died in 1972 and is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Front Royal, Virginia.