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Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté Announces Retirement

Dan Verbeck
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté announced Wednesday that he will retire from the force in May."

Kansas City Chief of Police Darryl Forté announced Wednesday morning that he is retiring, effective May 20, 2017. The city's first African-American police chief, Forté made the announcement in a Twitter post.

Forté joined the KCPD as an officer in 1985 and became chief in 2011. According to the department's website, he has held every rank in the department.

Forté has presided over a difficult period for cops and communities throughout the United States.

Police-involved shootings, as well as the targeting of officers, have caused protests in many cities in recent years.

Forté is credited with leadership that may have prevented violent or destructive protests in Kansas City.  

As chief, he frequently showed up at crime scenes, often in plain clothes and often on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He instituted programs aimed at training officers to de-escalate conflict.

But Forté has also been criticized—including by his own department's police union—for comments he made in the wake of shootings of African-American men in other cities. The chief  acknowledged there was a problem with "too many African-American men being killed by police officers." He pointed to what he characterized as an "unreasonable fear," as well as poor training,  in an interview with The Kansas City Star.

The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police did not take kindly to these remarks.

In an interview Wednesday, President Brad Lemon acknowledged the union opposed the chief's statements, as well as the way he sometimes made hiring decisions.

But Lemon said this was not the day to criticize the chief.

"This day should be about celebrating a man who put a uniform on for 32 years and served the city  to the best of his ability," Lemon said.

Some community leaders expressed disappointment at the reassignment of community interaction officersback into regular patrol jobs. At the time, the chief said he wanted all officers to integrate community policing into their day to day responsibilities, which some rank and file officers quietly said was not possible. 

The chief has worked well with most of the city's anti-crime organizations. 

Damon Daniel, president of Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, says Forte pulled back the curtain for communities to see more clearly what police do and how they do it.

"What I've seen under Chief Forte's leadership is an increase in transparency," Daniel says.  "He's promoted additional training, required officers to take time off after traumatic events and acknowledged racial bias."

Early reaction to Forté's twitter post congratulated the outgoing chief and commended him for his service.

The Kansas City Star reports that Forté informed the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners of his decision to retire on Tuesday night. The chief tells Fox4 News he plans to attend law school.

The Kansas City Police Department is under the control of a state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners. No announcement has been made of how Forté's successor will be selected.

Brian Ellison is a contributor and host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Missouri. You can reach him at brian@kcur.org or on Twitter, @ptsbrian.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at lauraz@kcur.org or on Twitter, @laurazig

As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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