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Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says data shows drugs don't always equal violence

Urges KCPD to approach drug cases differently
Jean Peters Baker at BOPC
Posted at 5:47 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 19:26:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker presented data to the Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday which she says goes against everything they've been taught in law enforcement.

Her office analyzed drug case data dating back to 2015 and, based on the findings, wants to approach drugs differently.

Peters Baker said by far, KCPD sends her office more drug cases and she prosecutes drugs more than any other type of crime, such as homicide, assault, robbery.

KCPD drug cases
KCPD drug cases compared to all other KCPD cases.

They say their data shows that drugs don't necessarily equal violence.

They took a random sampling of 595 drug cases from 2019 and found that 13.7% of them, or 82 cases, were violent.

KCPD drug prosecution cases
KCPD drug prosecution cases and violence

See the full presentation.

Peters Baker's office also found racial disparities with buy-bust cases, which is when an undercover officer arranges a drug deal to see if their target will buy. Eighty-five percent of the people cops bust are Black.

She is asking the police department to refer drug cases to her office when there's a link to violence.

"I want to take cases that protect my community. And when you bring me cases that have no discernible link to violence, it could actually cause harm, especially if you're only enforcing those in particular neighborhood," Peters Baker said.

Commissioner Cathy Dean worried that under this policy, officers wouldn't enforce drug laws. Peters Baker said she wants the police department to be informed by what the data shows.

Peters Baker also said she welcomes data from other groups to compare.

Some of her office's suggestions include a revamp of drug court, more drug treatment options, and neighborhood accountability groups.

Any neighborhood group which wants to hear this presentation can request a meeting with the prosecutor's office.

"What I want is how we can reduce violence, how our overall policies impact that bottom line for us," Peters Baker said. "Because look, the truth is, just over one in two homicides is solved. The truth is, one in six non-fatal shootings is solved. That is a problem, we need to keep our eye on the problem."

A spokesperson for the police department simply said it's up to the prosecutor's office to change any policy and they'd comply with it.