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Kansas City Families Whose Loved Ones Were Killed By Police Want 'Bad Cops Removed'

Families of Slain Black Men.JPG
Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Families of men killed Kansas City police call for changes to the police department including the resignation of Chief Rick Smith.

Family members of men killed by Kansas City police united today in a push for support and answers.

The families of men killed by Kansas City police officers called today for reforms to the local police department. They were joined by MORE2, a Kansas City-based social justice organization, to demand the resignation of Chief Rick Smith and local control of the police department. And, they accused the department of a lack of transparency.

“They shot my baby in the back and called it justifiable," said Narene Stokes whose son, Ryan, was gunned down by a police officer in 2013. "How do you call it justifiable? I don't know what the police told the jury in June, but it's got to change."

Stokes said she wants the grand jury to reverse the decision that excused the officer's actions.

Charges have been filed against the officer who killed 26-year-old Cameron Lamb last year, but his family said that is only the beginning of justice.

"We want a conviction, we want the bad cops removed from the police department. The systems need to be changed in Kansas City and all over America," said longtime family friend Merlon Ragland.

As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis continue across the country, MORE2's organizers admit their goal is to make sure the names of those killed in Kansas City are also heard.

“Some of the names have not received hashtags. Some have not received protests. There are others where we just don't know who they are,” explained More2 co-chair Kiku Brooks.

Brooks said she believes the reason that the names of many victims are overlooked is because of efforts by the department to cover-up these incidents and protect their officers.

Some family members recalled a lack of police compassion, saying they were not notified when their loved ones were killed.

Nasha Green is the cousin of Dantae Franklin, a 24-year-old man shot and killed by Kansas City police officers in 2017. She says her family had to find out about his death through social media.

“It'll be three years next month, and we have not had a proper notification of death. There is so much disparity in the way that black men are treated and this has to be stopped,” said Green. “We feel that if Dantae was not an African American male, he would have given the benefit of the doubt.”

“I do believe that there needs to be training and resources to enable them to do their job so they can save lives on both sides, but it's equally important when police officers abuse their authority and take the lives of people that there are consequences,” said Green.

The families recognized the rising tension between law enforcement and racial justice advocates which is fueled, in large part, by the recent presence of federal agents sent to Kansas City as part of Operation Legend.

The initiative has been named after four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City last month. U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced last week that he would send federal agents to help combat the metro’s growing violent crime rate.

President Donald Trump expanded the operation from Kansas City to include Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, despite concerns from local leaders in all three cities that the decision will escalate mistrust between the community and police.

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