Community activist organizations including the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality (MORE2) are encouraging community members to have their voices heard in the upcoming search for Kansas City’s new police chief.

Current Police Chief Rick Smith announced he will be retiring early this year and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners will soon begin the process for selecting the new chief. 

The board of police commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, oversee the Kansas City Police Department, which gives them full authority to select and appoint the new chief.  

“What we have is a board of police commissioners who can choose to gather input from the community at large or they can choose not to do so,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

In a Zoom meeting last week, community leaders including Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, Executive Director of MORE2 Lora McDonald and President of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime Damon Daniel discussed how community members can get involved in the process and the kinds of traits they’d want the new police chief to have.

Reflecting on the selection process when Smith was appointed police chief, Grant said there was not enough community engagement in the process.

“We had concerns about Rick Smith before he was appointed, but the board turned a deaf ear on community input,” Grant said.

Community leaders want this police search to be different and have as much community involvement as possible.

“We need to make sure residents are involved deeply in this process,” Robinson said. “I am deeply committed and want to make sure people are participating in the interview process. If our voice is going to be heard, we’ll have to build power.”

Grant and other community leaders are suggesting community members attend the next board of police commissioners meeting on Feb. 22, 9:30 a.m. at KCPD Headquarters, 1125 Locust St. to demand to be part of the police search process.

On Feb. 22, 6 p.m. at St. James United Methodist, 5540 Wayne Ave., MORE2 is holding their annual meeting.  At the meeting, they plan to begin a campaign for local control of KCPD.  Local control would give power over the police to the city’s elected mayor and city council members. 

“It’s extremely important for the commissioners to get out into the community and hold forums,” Daniel said during the meeting. “It would be great for them to go through all six districts and see what the community wants to see. Even though we don’t have local control, that would show the community they are committed to listening to the community.”

How Can Kansas City Get Local Control?

Option 1: Change the Missouri state statute that says Kansas City is under state control. This can happen through placing the measure on a ballot through the legislature or mobilizing and getting the measure on the ballot as a community.

Option 2: The state legislature would have to pass a state law requiring Kansas City to return to local control.

Option 3: This would be a legal strategy through the courts, declaring the statute as undemocratic and unrepresentative. 

Traits Community Leaders Want to See in the Next Chief of Police

          Track record of collaboration with community members on decision making

          Excellent listening skills

          Track record of hiring and promoting Black and Brown officers

          Accessible and visible to the community

          Have a good working relationship with the prosecutor’s office

          Open to police reform

          Calls out what is wrong

          Understands that their job is to serve the community

Jazzlyn Johnson

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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