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Kansas City-area organizations continue call to defund police, for KCPD chief to resign

Organizations, Mayor Lucas trade letters, barbs
KCPD
Posted at 4:33 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 23:51:42-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Seven social justice organizations from the Kansas City area are doubling down on demands for the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's budget to be slashed and for Chief of POlice Rick Smith to resign.

Organizations including Black Rainbow, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, National Black United Front - Kansas City, Operation Liberation, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and Urban Summit of Kansas City released a copy of a letter they submitted to Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker.

The letter comes a day after the seven organizations rejected a meeting with Lucas, Chief Smith and other officials to discuss police reform.

“The Black community in Kansas City voted for (Lucas) and he’s turned around and slaughtered us by not addressing our policing issues,” Black Rainbow community organizer Alexander Paul said.

The demands began last June following protests in Kansas City over the murder of George Floyd.

The protest became tense at times during which protesters and law enforcement officers exchanged projectiles for tear gas.

Among the demands from the organizations include divesting the KCPD budget to 20% of the city's general fund.

Further, it calls for a community established "People's Budget," which would redirect police funding to areas including housing, healthcare, sustainable infrastructure and education.

The letter to the city officials read in part:

Our response to Mayor Lucas, Chief Rick Smith, and the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office is simple:

We will not take part in performative politics. We are justice seekers, not order keepers. State-sanctioned violence via the KCPD, a publicly funded institution, is being inflicted upon our community with impunity. The KCPD, under the leadership of Chief Rick Smith remains a racist institution, both systemically and structurally. Smith’s leadership fosters a white supremacist culture that breeds violence, engages in archaic over-policing, and blatantly disregards the humanity of Black people. We will not back down and we will not be silent amid such.

A few of the other demands to the city included:

  • Dismantling the Office of Community Complaints
  • Establishing an independent community-based and governed office of complaints
  • Mandating the immediate suspension without pay for officers under criminal indictment
  • Creating a transformative and strategic reparations plan for the families of those who have been killed by KCPD
  • Require officers to be liable for misconduct settlements
  • Withdraw participation in police militarization programs
  • Appointing a special prosecutor to investigate alleged police misconduct In solidarity with justice and peace

Lucas responded Thursday afternoon during a press conference about evening COVID-19 vaccine clinics to the letter and the fact that the organizations didn't attend Wednesday's meeting.

"I think it would be preposterous if a mayor just stopped having meetings with people," Lucas said. "If a mayor just said, 'All right, I'm not going to talk to anybody until an 80 list of demands is met.'"

Lucas issued a letter of his own later Thursday in which he said his commitment "to listen and to be honest about that which I can do, have done, and plan to do ahead, and, importantly, to be honest with the challenges I also see in policing in Kansas City" remains unchanged.

He took exception to the accusation he was playing "performative politics," noting that the letter deriding him was sent to the media and not directed to his office "which makes one question who is playing politics."

Lucas said he's aware that some in the community have attacked him "a liar, sell-out, and any number of invectives meant perhaps to provide the media an exciting Black-on-Black war of words," but he said he's "not going to get in a back-and-forth with anyone, let alone a back-and-forth that does nothing but entertain the masses while accomplishing nothing for my people."

"Long after I’m done being mayor, I will be a Black man in Kansas City and a Black man in America," Lucas said. "I would like my time in office to make life safer for those like me and my sisters in Kansas City—and that includes from police misconduct."

Lucas said he will review the demands in the letter, but reiterated that the mayor doesn't have the ability to hire or fire Smith or any other KCPD chief of police, and vowed to continue working with community stakeholders "regardless of what you feel about me."

KCPD also is committed to continued dialogue.
"We plan on having more meetings moving forward, and already have the next one on the books," Sgt. Jake Becchina, a KCPD spokesman, said. "We look forward to discussions with any group that wants to come to the table. We are proud of the reforms we have undertaken and look forward to continued progress."

Lucas' two-page letter, the full text of which can be found below, indicated that he plan to continue meetings like Wednesday's on a monthly basis and thanked the community leaders for their service to Kansas City.