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Community coalition presents findings on what Kansas Citians want in next police chief

Police Chief BOPC Meeting
Posted at 6:06 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 18:18:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Citians are letting their voice be heard and Tuesday a coalition of 16 community organizations revealed what community members want to see in the next Kansas City, Missouri, chief of police to the KCPD Board of Police Commissioners.

Following news of former KCPD Chief Rick Smith's retirement, the coalition — which consists of business, faith, civic and social groups — met with 350 people across seven listening sessions during the last three months, gathering feedback from 1,374 people through online surveys.

You can view the community feedback report here.

The coalition concluded from the findings that both the community and KCPD want a police chief with honesty and integrity, as well as someone who is transparent and has a record of reducing crime.

"Really, we've not been asked by the board of police commissioners to have a whole lot of involvement in anything they do," Don Maxwell, with the Prospect Business Association, said. "They're not asking for this, but we're giving them information about how the community feels."

The coalition announced nine consistent themes that Kansas Citians want to see from the next police chief based on the surveys.

Those who participated believed the new chief should:

  • Be engaged in the community;
  • Be a strong communicator;
  • Transparently use data and best practices as a key component of strategy and vision;
  • Develop and communicate clear strategy and vision;
  • Address perception of underlying racism in the police department;
  • Prioritize training and emphasize de-escalation of racial bias training;
  • Prioritize mental health in both community and police department;
  • Re-examine and improve the internal investigation process;
  • Be able to navigate the political landscape.

Community survey results indicated that trustworthiness and community engagement were the qualities that are the highest priority for participants. About 1,200 people filled out the survey.

Community members also want a chief who prioritizes trust in the community, transparency, openness and officer accountability.

When it comes to qualifications of the new chief, experience with de-escalation techniques and reducing opportunities for misconduct were also priorities.

Common complaints in the community survey were focused on officer misconduct and the internal investigation process.

A separate survey shared with KCPD members was intended to gather internal feedback. 181 officers responded to the survey.

Responses showed that honesty and integrity were the qualities most sought after by members of the department along with positive community interactions, finding solutions to community problems, building trust and reducing homicides.

The coalition found that the community responses placed a greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in the department than those within KCPD who completed the survey.

On the other hand, KCPD members placed higher value on a chief who is fair, equitable, prioritizes officer retention and promotes staff "development, training and succession planning."

"You can take the results of this survey tomorrow and every major and every commander can meet with their patrol officers and talk about, 'This is what 64109 is thinking, here's what 64130 is feeling, and how do we police protect and serve these particular areas?'" Pastor Darron Edwards, leader with Getting to the Heart of the Matter, said. "Now, you don't have to guess what they're thinking, you have data to show what they're thinking."

The top three zip codes that responded to the survey were:

  • 64131 - Oak to The Paseo from 63rd to 119th
  • 64130 - Woodland to Hardesty from 39th to 63rd
  • 64157 - Northland, Shoal Creek area

Across all neighborhoods, building trust is the top need, which was not a surprise to those in the coalition.

"The Chamber and the Civic Council had worked with a dozen community organizations over the last several years since the George Floyd incident and what came through consistently and very clear, was there was a lack of trust," Steve Edwards, chair of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, said. "To solve the problems, if we don't address the trust issue, then it'll make it that much more difficult."

South KC, Northeast and Westside neighborhoods said their top priority is reducing violent crime.

The Eastside neighborhood said their top priority is accountability for officer misconduct and community complaints.

Northland, Midtown and Downtown neighborhoods said their top priorities are building trust and strengthening community and police relations.

"We've already had officers that have attended, officers and captains and majors as well, that have heard the questions in the sessions and they've come to the office to see what they can start doing right now," Bobbi Baker, president of the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, said.

Many people said this kind of community engagement has never happened before.

"This is the first time I've seen the community have an opportunity to have input," Chuck Byrd, with the Black Chamber of Commerce, said. "We're in a different day and a different time now. The problem wasn't created overnight but I think with us galvanizing our energy as a community, I think you can expect change."

KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas, who serves on the police board, told us he values public input.

“I think it’s important for folks to make as much noise as possible to make sure we get a chief who is interested in collaborating in every community," Lucas said.

The mayor has previously said there is no deadline by which the board hopes to hire its next chief.