Mayor Lucas sets new reform measures for the KC Police Department
By Tyler Schneider
Photo by Adam Vescovi
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas called a closed emergency meeting with the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, June 4. Lucas hosted a press conference via Facebook Live later that afternoon, where he would reveal a set of sweeping oversight measures for the KCPD.
“The first thing that I will note is that we are all delighted with the fact that deescalation has seen positive results lately in connection with our protests,” Lucas said to open the session. “We have not seen the deployment of tear gas in several days. That is important for us, because we recognize that people have a right to protest, to be heard… to be safe.”
In the first few minutes, Lucas made two things clear: Police Chief Rick Smith will continue in his role going forward and that the next meeting with the Board of Police Commissioners, on June 16, would be open to the public.
Regarding the aforementioned de-escalation efforts, Lucas drew his own hard line on the use of tear gas.
“This is me speaking personally: it is my view that the use of tear gas and other projectiles should be used only in situations where there is an imminent threat to either the life of the officers or others,” Lucas said.
Lucas stressed the importance of increased accountability and transparency in the form of third party oversight of KC law enforcement.
“If [Use of Force complaints] reach a level of severity, merits will be sent to an outside agency for review in all situations,” Lucas said. “Probable cause statements will be sent (in officer involved shootings) to relevant prosecutors’ offices, including the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.”
According to Lucas, this policy would apply for all cases where an officer was involved in a shooting of any kind “even in situations where it appears that the officer’s actions were justified”.
Another way of ensuring transparency is the implementation of police body cameras. On June 3, Smith announced a $2.5 million donation from the Debruce Foundation and area business owners to purchase body cameras for every KCPD officer.
“With those funds secured, we will also look to ensure that if we have body cameras that they are easy to use, turned on in all interactions and regularly serviced. Images must be retrievable and shall be provided upon request to any relevant federal or state authority,” Lucas said.
There is no concrete timeline for when these cameras will actually be fastened to officers, however Lucas said the goal is to deploy that program by the end of the year.
In additional efforts to expand transparency, Lucas said that he and the city are discussing protections for citizens who film or document interactions with police.
To set the tone, Lucas announced that he would be issuing a mayoral pardon to Roderick Reed, who was prosecuted for filming a video of two officers assaulting Brianna Hill as they arrested her in May of 2019.
“I felt that it’s necessary for us to move on beyond it and ensure that people know they have the right to film police conduct,” Lucas said of the incident, again citing increased transparency as an immediate step forward.
On a related note, if an officer has any concerns about the conduct of a fellow officer, Lucas made it clear that they can file a report with the Office of Community Complaints without repercussions or backlash from their peers. The complaint would be evaluated and then directed to the Board of Police Commissioners in a confidential manner.
“Effective immediately,” Lucas added, is a mandatory weekly report from the KCPD, to be presented to the City Council at every meeting. Aldermen would be able ask questions and make law enforcement policy decisions based on these reports.
A summary of the oversight measures is provided below:
- The Kansas City Police Department to reverse its policy of not sending probable cause statements to the relevant County Prosecutor’s office in officer involved shootings.
- All officers involved shootings and all major use of force complaints to be sent to an outside enforcement agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for independent review.
- The Kansas City Police Department to provide weekly updates to the City Council to inform the public about the Department’s ongoing community engagement efforts.
- The Kansas City Police Department to review its use of tear gas and other projectiles and determine ways to further restrict their use, and to report within two weeks to the BOPC. The BOPC will provide a policy update proposal related to tear gas and other projectiles at its next scheduled meeting.
- The Kansas City Police Department to make clear that whistleblowers seeing misconduct within KCPD have a codified process through which they can report complaints about other officers to the Office of Community Complaints and the Board of Police Commissioners.