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As Kansas City, Missouri's Homicide Total Climbs, Jackson County's Sheriff Has Started Showing Up At Crime Scenes

Luke Martin / KCUR 89.3
Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte is showing up often to homicide scenes in Kansas City. He says it is his responsibility as a black man and top law enforcement official in the county.

Former Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte says he should be visible in the community, but with a primary election two months away, his opponent says it's just a political ploy.

Kansas City counted its 79th homicide of the year Monday night. That is 20 more than the same time a year ago.

But as the killings continue to mount, an unusual person has started showing up at more and more homicide scenes: Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte.

Amid heightened scrutiny of law enforcement as protests in Kansas City and around the nation continue over police brutality and racism, Forte—who retired as Kansas City police chief in 2017 before stepping in as interim Jackson County Sheriff a year later—sees a particular role for himself in troubled times.

"I'm a black male raised in Kansas City. What's unusual about me caring about my community?" he told KCUR.

Nobody in KCPD or the county has complained about Forte's presence at city crime scenes, but privately some county officials and former police board members acknowledge it is out of the ordinary.

"It's in his county so I’d say he’s free to patrol as he sees fit," KCPD spokesperson Sgt. Jake Becchina said in an email.

Forte said he stays back and never interferes with detectives.

"I've never asked a question about any homicide, never," he told KCUR.

KCPD confirms this. "I also didn’t see or hear of any instance of him participating in any aspect of the investigation, so no issues there," Becchina said.

Forte also said he doesn't think it is intimidating for investigators who used to work for him to see him at crime scenes.

Still, the sheriff seems to be Tweeting more as the August 4 Missouri primary election gets closer. This rankles his primary opponent, former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp.

"It's a political ploy is what it is," Sharp said.

Sharp was sheriff from 2009 until he resigned because of a scandal in 2018 involving a sexual relationship with a civilian employee in the office. Jackson County political observers expect Sharp to give the incumbent Forte a tough primary.

"He is increasing his visibility but he's had two years to be visible," Sharp said.

Forte denies there is a political motivation and says going to crime scenes, whether he is investigating them or not, is just something he has always done.

"I've been out in the community. This is nothing new."

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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