KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department updated its code of conduct last month to formalize, clarify and codify an officer’s duty to intervene upon witnessing the use of excessive force by a colleague.
The KCPD Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct “has always stated officers should report improper conduct,” but a revision that was issued and went into effect March 3 provides more direction about an officer’s responsibility in such situations.
“Sworn members will take appropriate and immediate action in any situation in which they know or should have known their failure to intervene would result in a constitutional violation, excessive response to resistance or egregious behavior which shocks the conscience,” according to Section II, Subsection C, of the updated code of conduct.
Section II, Subsection D, also was added, which stipulates that KCPD “will not condone or tolerate any retaliation against a member for reporting or intervening in any situation contrary to this directive.”
The department said it also has added to duty-to-intervene training as part of its police academy curriculum.
The more clearly defined duty-to-intervene policy comes amid national movement for police reform, including calls for increased accountability from KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas.
It also is one of more than a half-dozen changes enacted by KCPD, which was criticized for using heavy-handed tactics against protesters last summer.
KCPD arrested more than 150 people during the first three days of protests last summer after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
All KCPD officers will be equipped with body-worn cameras as of Thursday, according to the department, and the Board of Police Commissioners adopted new policies regarding the cameras last month.
“The KCPD heard the calls for change from the community and has made substantive reforms in response,” the department said Wednesday in a release, one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd in May 2020. “The department’s members will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure KCPD is meeting the needs of the community by providing professional public safety service while building greater trust and deepening relationships with residents.”
Among the other changes KCPD has made in the past year:
- All shootings and major use-of-force complaints involving KCPD officers must be investigated by an outside agency, such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol or FBI, after mounting pressure on the department to cease investigating itself;
- KCPD adopted a new First Amendment Protected Activities policy, which curtails the use of “less-lethal projectiles” against demonstrators;
- Choke holds, which the department didn’t train or authorize, have been explicitly outlawed “to subdue a resisting person” under KCPD’s revised Response to Resistance policy, which was updated in January 2021;
- KCPD implemented an anonymous complaint process through its Human Resources Division for reporting department members for inappropriate conduct or as a possible danger to the public;
- The department’s Office of Community Complaints was beefed up, including a new website, though some believe it still needs to be more independent from the Board of Police Commissioners.
While welcome, some activists want to see even more change, including a focus on prioritizing funding for the underlying causes of poverty and addiction over policing.
KCPD policy has long discouraged shooting at moving vehicles and the department’s Regional Police Academy already emphasized de-escalation techniques, which also were part of annual in-service training for officers.
The Missouri Department of Public safety voted in October 2020 to require annual de-escalation training for all law enforcement in the state.
But that hasn’t stopped a recent spate of indictments against KCPD officers for excessive force, including at least one alleged extrajudicial killing:
- Two KCPD officers, Matthew Brummett and Charles Prichard, were charged with felony assault after allegedly using excessive force when arrested the late Brianna Hill in May 2019. The officers also face numerous civil lawsuits for excessive force;
- KCPD Det. Eric DeValkenaere was charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Cameron Lamb in December 2019;
- KCPD Sgt. Matthew T. Neal was indicted on one count of third-degree assault last August by a Jackson County grand jury for allegedly kneeling on a 15-year-old boy’s neck and striking him with a knee, causing serious injuries.
- KCPD police officer Nicholas McQuillen was charged with fourth-degree assault last month for spraying a teenage girl in the face at point-blank range with pepper spray in May 2020 during protests against police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s murder.