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Black leaders discuss need for changes in city leadership

adhoc group against crime open letter
Posted at 1:20 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 14:20:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Black leaders in Kansas City believe change from the top down is crucial right now.

"We have to move from talk, because this is the Show-Me state, to action," said Damon Daniel, president of the AdHoc Group Against Crime.

Daniel wrote a public letter and reflected on systemic racism and where it leaves the Black community today.

"We really have to look at more than just renaming streets," Daniel said. "We really have to look at, where is opportunity in our city, where is it located, where is it rooted in, and how do we create better access to it?"

The letter ties in higher unemployment rates in the Black community and the added impact COVID-19 disproportionately placed on minorities, specifically Black people.

"There is nothing new about disenfranchised Black communities, yet there are no existing efforts to dismantle the structures and policies that maintain them," Daniel's letter said. "The inefficient efforts of those placed in power have not honored their end of our social contract. This reality has placed us in a position where we must reweave the existing patterns of relationships."

Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said she believes there's finally a commitment across racial lines to change policies that have oppressed Black people for many years.

"We have to address the disparities that run across the board with economics and health care and education and social justice — and now is the time," Grant said.

Policing is undoubtedly a large part of this conversation. Several groups, including AdHoc and the Urban League, are calling for KCPD Chief Rick Smith to resign, saying he is not committed to police reform and hasn't properly addressed violent crime.

"You've got to have the kind of leader who is committed to that kind of change, and we don't have the confidence in our community that Chief Smith is up to the challenge," Grant said.

KCPD said Smith "understands that some people are pleased with his performance and some are not. He looks forward to leading us through these challenging times."

Both Daniel and Grant say under Smith, the police department is not solving enough homicides and violent crime, pointing to statistics they received from the Jackson County Prosecutor's office that say the solve-rate is 33 percent.

The prosecutor's office told 41 Action News the police department on average submits only two in 10 violent crimes to their office.

"If they are not willing to take time to understand the other side of things and the historical nature that has gotten us here - we don't need it," Daniel said.

According to KCPD's homicide tracker, out of the 89 homicides so far, 48 of them have been solved and cleared, which means investigators have identified a suspect and were able to take it to the prosecutor's office for charges, respectively.

Of the 48, investigators identified a suspect in ten of those cases but were not able to send them to the prosecutor's office.

About half of the homicides every year since 2014 are solved and taken to the prosecutor's office.

Last December the police department brought in two efforts to improve the clearance rate.

Smith said his department's clearance rate did not meet the national average.

According to the tracker, homicides have gone up over the last decade, trending upward since 2016-2017.

Former Chief Darryl Forte retired in 2017 after serving nearly six years, and Smith took over in August of that year.