About 50 people rallied outside the Kansas City Police Department’s new East Patrol Campus on Monday to protest fatal shootings by police.
“We did not know there had been 47 individuals killed, but we knew that there had been more than Ryan Stokes, Javon Hawkins and Tyrone Holman,” says Britt Coleman, spokeswoman for social justice group One Struggle KC.
According to a weekend Kansas City Star report, about 60 percent of people fatally shot by KCPD officers were black, compared to 30 percent of all Kansas Citians.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a black police officer or a black police chief, or if it’s a white police officer who’s killing a black individual,” Coleman says. “It’s a system of policing that’s the problem here in the United States.”
Showing solidarity with One Struggle KC at the rally were members of the interfaith Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equality.
Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami, an urban synagogue, says it disturbed him that the president of the Board of Police Commissioners told the Star he didn’t think police needed more oversight.
“It really goes to things like transparency and how the police carry out their function, and also in their training and how they respond to situations in a way that would diffuse tense situations rather than add tension,” Alpert says.
One Struggle KC and MORE2 have very different missions, but both groups agree the grand jury system isn’t working in Kansas City. None of the officers faced charges for their involvement in the shootings.
For his part, Alpert would like to see KCPD establish a citizen oversight board to review shootings by police.
Coleman says One Struggle KC prefers a community policing approach.
“So community policing means going within the black community and putting the power in the source,” Coleman says.
It’s an idea that anti-violence organization Aim4Peace has long advocated in Kansas City.
Coleman says One Struggle KC chose to protest the new police campus because many long-time residents had to be displaced to build the complex at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue, which bears the name of murdered civil rights leader Leon Jordan.
Coleman says the money used to build the new patrol building could have been better spent in the surrounding community.
A KCPD spokeswoman declined to comment on the protest, and pointed KCUR to a blog post Chief Darryl Forté wrote last month about the impact having to shoot someone has on officers.
“For many, that split-second decision in which they did what they were trained to do to protect themselves and others is life-changing,” he wrote. “They may not have lost their lives, but some will never be the same.”
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.