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Policy The Focus After 3 Fatally Shot By Police In Kansas City, Missouri


Officers with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department fatally shot three people Thursday afternoon, and the focus is now on the department's succinct use of force policy.

According to its website, Kansas City police "are authorized to use deadly force in order to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe is an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm." But it isn't clear what directions are given regarding de-escalation techniques.

The first shooting occured after a long standoff between officers and a woman who was allegedly wielding a sword on the 3800 block of North Jackson in North Kansas City. According to police, officers secured the area after the woman ran to a shed. After negotiators on the scene attempted to make contact and "bring it all to a desired safe conclusion," she was shot and killed. 

Less than an hour later, police shot and killed two men in downtown Kansas City near 12th and Wyandotte streets after responding to reports of a disturbance. Police said there was a gun involved in the fight, which was "possibly about a golf cart."

Captain Lionel Colón said in a statement the officers had "no other option than to use deadly force."

"KCPD understands the concern when deadly force is used," he said. "We study the science behind its use. We train accordingly over and over again to thoroughly prepare ourselves." 

The department didn't provide any additional information on the shootings Friday. It isn't clear how many officers fired their weapons in either shooting nor how many have been placed on leave. The Kansas City Star reported that Police Chief Rick Smith said the shootings will be investigated internally, per protocol.

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office goes to scenes where there's been a fatal shooting by a police officer. That was the case Thursday in the downtown shooting, according to spokesman Mike Mansur. He also said the office will "review the investigation once it’s submitted.”

In 2012, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker created a use of force committee, and has made a concerted effort to make those internal investigations more transparent.

"We spend a significant greater amount of time than we used to talking to victim's families, helping them understand our process," Baker told KCUR in January, adding, "These particular cases, among all cases I look at, bear the greatest burden for community on whether or not they trust a process."

Damon Daniel with Ad Hoc Group Against Crime said he wonders what the KCPD's requirements are in terms of de-escalation, including whether officers were maintaining proper distance from the woman with a sword.
"Often officers use the excuse that they felt they were threatened," Daniel said. "Well, if they are maintaining distance, how much of a threat can that person be?"

Daniel also said he hopes preservation of life of all parties involved is each officer's priority, adding, "We certainly want law enforcement to return home safely, but we also want them to protect us even when we are perhaps in not in our right minds or on the right side of the law."

Daniel said he commends the KCPD for working on improving community relations, citing their recent youth academy. But, he said, to really improve relations, a closer look needs to be taken at use of deadly force policies.

KCUR intern Nicolas Telep contributed to this report. Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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