Over the weekend, a video went viral of a Kansas City police officer pepper spraying and then arresting a protestor at the Country Club Plaza protest.
On Tuesday, Mayor Quinton Lucas held a press conference where he expressed how proud he was of the Kansas City Police Department and his satisfaction with Chief of Police Richard Smith.
Based on two press conferences held this week, the leaders of several community organizations are not happy with the Chief, can’t understand why Mayor Lucas would express support for him, and feel a number of changes must be made around policing in Kansas City.
Despite the Mayor’s support for the Chief, in a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, leaders from the Kansas City branch of the NAACP, MORE2 and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City called for Chief Smith’s resignation.
“I was not sure I understood why he based that declaration of competence in Chief Smith because we have a very different perspective on Chief Smith,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.
In a press release, the groups identified the following actions by Chief Smith in support of their call for his resignation.
- Chief Smith’s blatant refusal to issue standard probable cause statements in excessive force and homicide cases involving police officers under his command.
- Chief Smith’s consistent practice of conducting internal investigations of officer-involved homicides and excessive force incidents rather than calling for an outside law enforcement agency to conduct independent investigations as is a common best practice utilized by most law enforcement agencies.
- Chief Smith’s decision to appoint the former supervisor of one of the detectives involved in the December 2019 homicide of Cameron Lamb, an African-American male, as the lead investigator of the shooting and the withholding of this information from prosecutors.
- Chief Smith’s consistent practice of reinstating officers to active duty while investigations into their roles in excessive-force and homicide cases are ongoing.
- Chief Smith’s decision to conduct an investigation on the victim in a recent officer-involved homicide prior to conducting the investigation into the homicide case.
Rev. Rodney Williams, president of the Kansas City branch of the NAACP said, “It is crystal clear that the residents of Kansas City, Missouri, will bring an end to the criminalization of Black skin.” However, he noted accountability of the police department and policy changes must be put in place to ensure the Black people living in Kansas City receive equal protection. Among those needed policy changes, Williams said, is legislation that would ban knee holds and choke holds.
In addition, the groups called for local control of the Kansas City Police Department.
Kansas City is the only city in the state that has a police department still under state control. This means the police department is not controlled by the mayor and city council, but by a board of commissioners appointed by the Governor.
Lora McDonald, executive director of the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity said the citizens do not have equal representation when the police department is under state control. The groups said Kansas City residents should expect to have a voice in the public institutions that are funded with tax dollars.
In another press conference held on the steps of city hall Tuesday morning, a group of Kansas City clergy made demands for the police department to obtain body cameras. Emanuel Cleaver III, pastor at St. James United Methodist Church tweeted: “I want to thank all of the clergy for showing up today. But, we still have more work that needs to be done until all of our demands are met.”
Wednesday night, the DeBruce Foundation donated $1 million and raised an additional $1.5 million for the KCPD to purchase body cameras.
According to a tweet from Mayor Lucas, a special meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners was scheduled for Thurs., June 4. The special meeting will be about the protests, the use of force policy and how relationships between KCPD and the Kansas City Black community can improve.