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What do Kansas Citians want in a police chief? Someone who will hold KCPD officers accountable

Representatives from the organizations involved in gathering public input on Kansas City's search for a new police chief present the findings of public listening sessions and surveys. They hope the Board of Police Commissioners will take their findings into consideration.
Celisa Calacal
KCUR 89.3
Representatives of organizations that gathered public input on Kansas City's search for a new police chief present their findings. They're hoping the Board of Police Commissioners will take them into account.

A coalition of Kansas City organizations released a report outlining the qualities that residents and KCPD employees want in the department's next police chief.

A series of public listening sessions and surveys conducted by a coalition of Kansas City organizations finds that residents and members of the Kansas City Police Department are looking for many of the same qualities in the city’s next chief of police.

They want an honest police chief who prioritizes building trust with the community, values transparency and reduces violent crime.

The findings, which were presented to the Board of Police Commissioners at its meeting on Tuesday, resulted from seven sessions and surveys undertaken by local chambers of commerce and other groups.

“It is our fervent hope that the report can be useful in providing healing stitches in the mending of our community that too often has been frayed at the seams,” said Rev. Bob Hill, one of the moderators of the sessions. “The people have spoken and we will all be watching.”

The coalition found that 60% of the top priorities and qualities identified by Kansas City residents matched those listed by KCPD personnel.

Pastor Darron Edwards, of Getting to the Heart of the Matter, a member of the coalition, said the listening sessions were about providing solutions to the problems faced by every community and zip code in Kansas City.

“This document is not just 250 pages. It's 250 pages of solutions” he said. “And these solutions, I believe, will help our city become a safer city.”

The presentation comes after the retirement of Police Chief Rick Smith last month and the selection of Joseph Mabin as interim police chief.

The coalition received 1,373 total responses to its survey, with 181 from the KCPD. Three hundred fifty people attended the public sessions.

“I think you can expect change,” said Chuck Byrd, vice president of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, another coalition member. “It's not going to happen overnight, but I'm sure — because the lights are on now and we are in a different day and a different time — there's going to be change at the top.”

Survey responses

The survey asked respondents about the leadership qualities, priorities and qualifications they want to see in a new police chief.

The top three priorities were building trust in the community, holding officers accountable for their actions and reducing violent crime. The top qualifications were a chief who practices transparency, shows how the department is reducing crime and has experience with de-escalation.

Some responses varied depending on where respondents live. For instance, residents from the East Side of Kansas City emphasized de-escalation. Residents in midtown, downtown, the Northland and south Kansas City emphasized transparency and openness to the public.

Responses by KCPD personnel emphasized staff development, training and succession planning. Officer retention was another top priority.

Marjorie Williams, who also moderated the public sessions, said the survey was distributed to the KCPD after department members participated in some of the sessions and asked to be involved.

Session responses

People who attended the public sessions said they wanted a police chief who prioritizes community engagement, develops relations with the public and is accessible. They also said they wanted an effective communicator who makes data and best practices transparent, the report found.

“Residents have a genuine distrust in our police department,” Byrd said. “We believe racism exists in the department.”

He said the Black Chamber encouraged the Board of Police Commissions to draw on the findings to forge “a new collaborative and cooperative approach to Kansas City's crime prevention.”

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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