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Community Leaders Encourage Residents to Get Involved in Search for Kansas City’s Next Police Chief | KCUR 89.3

More than 100 attendees joined four panelists at a public forum on Saturday to discuss the hiring process and desired prerequisites for a new Kansas City, Missouri police chief. The event was organized by the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Police Accountability Task Force, the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality (MORE2), the Jackson County Bar Association, the group Crime Ad Hoc and Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson.

Urban League President and CEO Gwen Grant called attention to the fact that Kansas City is one of the only US cities without local control over its police department. Instead, the department is overseen by a group of five members Board of Police Commissionersconsisting of the mayor and four persons appointed by the Governor of Missouri.

“Other cities have their mayor, their city council, their city manager, playing the primary role in finding, selecting and hiring the new chief of police,” Grant said. “We don’t have that here. What we have is a board of police commissioners who can choose to take input from the community as a whole or not.

Outgoing chef Rick Smith announced in November that he would retire in early 2022, but he hasn’t said exactly when. Activists and civil rights groups began calling for his removal following Black Lives Matter protests in the spring and summer of 2020.

Event organizers urged the community to participate in future discussions about the next police chief. Lora McDonald, Executive Director of MORE2, encouraged Kansas citizens to attend the next Council of Police Commissioners meeting on February 22 to tell commissioners what they want to see in the next police chief.

“Go out there and start talking about it,” McDonald said. “Because you’re right, Ms. Grant, they don’t have to listen to us, but we will make them listen to us through community engagement.”

Councilor Robinson said it was not only imperative that the community join the discussion now; it is also important that the board of police commissioners gives residents a platform to voice their opinions. “We have to start at the beginning and not be inserted at the end,” Robinson said.

Ad hoc chairman Damon Daniel said police commissioners should hold community forums in the council’s six districts.

“I think it would show, even if we don’t have local control, it would at least show that these commissioners are really committed to listening to the community and making sure their voices are represented in this process,” Daniel said. .

Panelists discussed whether the best choice for the next chief might come from outside the department. McDonald said KCPD failed to promote enough black women to positions that would allow them to be considered for the top job. Mayor Quinton Lucas, who joined the discussion, suggested that KCPD’s culture may have prevented some officers from rising through the ranks.

“There are probably talented people who have been in the department for a while, who may not have seen themselves evolve in the same way, if they got on the wrong side of the regime, and I say that by compared to everyone and anyone there,” he said.

Lucus said he hopes the police commission listens to people who are “representative of our communities.” He also noted that Smith could retire before his permanent replacement is in place.

“Another conversation that we need to have that is currently going on, who will be the interim leader? Because there are issues and things and all that kind of stuff going on right now that we have to make sure we’re a part of right now,” Lucas said.