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Kansas City-area activists seek more reform, despite recent KCPD changes

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 19:53:34-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Protesters and activists in Kansas City, Missouri, have demanded police reform throughout the past year, spurred by George Floyd's murder – and, now, the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin.

And while KCPD has instituted some changes during that time, advocates continue to push for more.

"Last summer with all the protests, [there were] some changes being made in terms of police reform in Kansas City, but I think that there's still a lot of anger and fear," Emanuel Cleaver III, an activist and St. James United Methodist Church senior pastor, said.

KCPD Chief Rick Smith blogged earlier this month about the First Amendment Protected Activities Policy, which outlines how officers should interact with people during protests. The policy states, in part, that displays of force will be minimized and police will focus their efforts on allowing law-abiding citizens to continue protesting.

The Board of Police Commissioners recently approved the policy.

The department also has equipped all six patrol divisions with body cameras. More information is expected to be announced during a news conference Thursday, according to a KCPD spokesperson.

"We asked for very specific things," Stacy Shaw, attorney and activist, said.

The reforms like body cameras, while positive, are not enough, according to Shaw.

"That didn't prevent someone from getting killed or brutalized, it just documented it," she said.

The only way to achieve real change, according to Shaw, is voting in politicians who will listen to the people. What she, and many other activists want, is to invest more in social services and less in the police.

"Find a way to defund and reallocate," Shaw said, "to take that money from the police department and reinvest it in the community in life-affirming institutions like safe housing, mental health treatment, and drug abuse treatment, which contributes to unsafe communities."

Activists said these conversations will not end, even with the guilty verdict in Chauvin's murder trial.

"I went down, I took my daughter down to the Plaza and we protested peacefully," Cleaver said. "So, yeah, I've been involved in a lot of conversations trying to bring about real change. The protest is one thing, but really getting and sitting down with KCPD and other leaders to actually bring some kind of reform."