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KCPD formalizes duty-to-intervene policy among ongoing changes

Department details other recent policy changes
KCPD car
Posted at 2:43 PM, Apr 21, 2021

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.”

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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.

The department announced in early June 2020 that it had secured funding for body-worn cameras for all officers and began deploying the cameras in November 2020.

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:

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.

Many of the changes are in line with the “8 Can’t Wait” police reform initiatives championed by Campaign Zero, a nonprofit that works to combat police violence.

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: