© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wyandotte County DA Says Task Force Snub Wasn’t Racist, But He’s Still Fighting ‘Good Old Boy Traditions’

About 200 people showed up at a Black Lives Matter protest on May 31 in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and prayed for peace.
Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
About 200 people showed up at a Black Lives Matter protest on May 31 in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and prayed for peace.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree tells KCUR’s “Up To Date” that the prosecutor’s office used to pass around a noose when a case ended in a hung jury.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, the first African-American district attorney ever elected in Kansas, said Tuesday that he was shocked to learn he was the only law enforcement official left off a newly-formed county police community board.

He doesn’t think the move by Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey was racist, but Dupree said he and Alvey certainly have different philosophies.

“I do not believe that the mayor intended, nor had any ill will on not putting me on there, specifically concerning my race,” Dupree told KCUR’s “Up To Date.”

Dupree said he commended Alvey for doing something amid ongoing calls for police reform and social justice locally and around the nation, but he hopes the task force will communicate with him moving forward.

“Because as the chief law enforcement official in the county, it’s my ball park,” he said. “And so we’re going to have to deal with the criminal justice systemic racism issues.”

Alvey announced the Task Force on Community and Police Relations on June 8, saying he wanted to “advance the dialogue” between African American and Hispanic communities and law enforcement in the county.

The 10-member task force includes Kansas City, Kansas, Interim Police Chief Michael York and Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash, who are both white. The panel is co-chaired by Alvey, who is white, and Wyandotte County Commissioner Harold Johnson, who is black.

Alvey defended his decision on Tuesday, saying he created the commission to host conversations between the community and law enforcement. There are four people of color on the commission so the community will be well-represented, he said.

“This in no way excludes the voice of the district attorney or the things he wants to advocate for,” Alvey said. “In fact, it just actually preserves his ability to advocate for those things.”

York and Ash will be able to hear stories about interactions with police from the community and then they are in the position to take immediate action on changing things, Alvey said.

Dupree will soon be asked to speak to the task force, Alvey said.

Since taking over the district attorney’s office in 2017, Dupree said he’s been trying to change the “good old boy traditions,” like passing a noose around the office when a prosecutor’s case went to a hung jury. That showed a lack of “cultural education,” Dupree said, so he instituted implicit bias training.

“I'm an advocate for getting rid of those good old boy traditions, those good old boy thought processes and making sure that justice and our constitutional rights apply to every person, regardless of race and ethnicity,” he said.

Former DA Jerome Gorman didn't return a call seeking comment.

Dupree recently renamed his Conviction Integrity Unit to the Community Integrity Unit, saying he wanted complaints from the entire community.

Dupree announced the unit in 2017, after Lamonte McIntyre was exonerated. McIntyre spent 23 years in prison after being framed for murder by Kansas City, Kansas, police officer Roger Golubski.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

In March, a federal judge allowed a case filed by McIntyre and his mother to proceed. The state of Kansas awarded McIntyre $1.55 million earlier this year for his wrongful imprisonment.

At least one case has come from the unit, Dupree said. Olin P. Coones, a Kansas City, Kansas, man, is also seeking his 2009 murder conviction overturned.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.