A coalition of activist groups in Kansas City are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the Kansas City Police Department.

The groups including, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City (ULGKC), Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City (SCLC-GKC), the National Black United Front Kansas City and MORE2, sent a 15-page letter asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the “disturbing patterns of misconduct, discrimination, and unconstitutional patterns and practices of violent policing targeting communities of color,” in KCPD.

The letter also alleges that KCPD conducted unreasonable searches and seizures and made arrests without warrants.

“We have no other recourse other than to ask the Department of Justice to come in and investigate this police department,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

The coalition believe they have a very compelling case, and want the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation of KCPD similar to their 2015 review of the Ferguson Police Department that followed the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by one of the department’s police officer.

Rev. Vernon Percy Howard said Kansas City is in the middle of a human and civil rights crisis that has caused great suffering.

“The core of those human and civil rights violations lies within the KCPD law enforcement and its leader Chief Rick Smith,” Howard said.

Because KCPD is under state control, with a board appointed by the governor making policy decisions for the department instead of local appointed and elected officials, the coalition of activist groups say they have not been successful at getting positive policy changes implemented.   

“We have done everything we possibly could to address this matter through our community channels and that has not worked,” Grant said. “We do not have a system here that would allow this system to correct itself.”

Howard said the lack of local control is outdated and leaves citizens without any say in policy and funding decisions within KCPD.

“This is a democratic travesty. This is human and civil rights violation. We have no recourse,” Howard said.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker also sent a letter supporting the investigation to Attorney General Garland.

She expressed her biggest concerns with excessive and deadly force incidents among minority community members and the lack of trust community members have in KCPD. She also said it is troubling that KCPD is still under state control.

“Kansas City’s police department suffers from many problems identified in cities now in turmoil about their police force,” Peters Baker wrote in the letter. “It has no accountability to our community; it has lost the community’s confidence that excessive force will be rooted out and stopped; and the harm from all of this falls in greatest portion on the city’s minority community.”

Grant confirmed their letter has been received by the Department of Justice and there should be an update sometime next week. 

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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