Results reported for Police Chief listening sessions
South KC Perspective
By John Sharp
The 16 community groups including the South Kansas City Alliance and South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce that hosted a series of seven listening sessions throughout the city on what leadership qualities and qualifications KCMO’s next police chief should have and what the new chief’s top priorities should be presented their findings which appeared to be well received May 24 to the Board of Police Commissioners.
In south Kansas City and in the westside & northeast areas of the city, participants in the listening sessions and those responding to surveys listed reducing homicides and other violent crimes as what they thought the new chief’s top priority should be.
Reducing homicides and other violent crimes was listed as what should be one of the new chief’s top five priorities in every part of town. It ranked third by the 1,193 community survey respondents on what should be the new chief’s top priority following building trust in the community and holding officers and staff accountable and ahead of strengthening police/community partnerships and building a department reflective of the community it serves.
The groups’ report to the Police Board noted that according to 2020 data released by the FBI, KCMO ranked as the 8th most violent U.S. big city. For several years our per capita homicide rate has been significantly higher than cities like Chicago that have a reputation for being extremely violent.
In 2020 KCMO set a new all-time record for homicides with 179 which declined to 157 in 2021. So far this year there have been 63 homicides compared to the 65 recorded at the same time of the year during the record setting year of 2020, including seven in South Patrol.
The top five leadership qualities south Kansas City participants and overall survey respondents said they wanted the new chief to have were identical, although in slightly different order. They were: has honesty & integrity, develops meaningful solutions to community problems, holds employees accountable, values diversity at all levels and values positive community relations.
South Kansas City participants and overall survey respondents agreed on four of the top five qualifications they wanted the new chief to have: practices transparency & openness, has a record of reducing crime and promoting community safety, has experience utilizing de-escalation techniques and promotes community oriented policing.
Participants from south Kansas City included understanding the history of policing in the U.S. including racism and bias as one of their top five desired qualifications, while overall survey respondents listed having experience recruiting and retaining quality personnel.
Survey responses by 181 police department personnel were largely similar to overall community responses, but department personnel placed significantly higher priority on implementing innovative and progressive policing practices and increasing the retention rate of police as top priorities and promoting development of staff, training & succession planning and being fair and equitable as top leadership qualities.
Community respondents placed significantly higher value than police personnel on developing meaningful solutions to community problems, holding employees accountable, valuing diversity at all levels, building a department reflective of the community it serves and having experience utilizing de-escalation techniques.
The national search for a new police chief to replace Rick Smith who retired last month is expected to take six to eight months but could take a year, Bishop Mark Tolbert, Police Board president, told a May 9 meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance.
Tolbert said the Board’s goal is to select five candidates to be interviewed by the Board, and to narrow that list to three finalists who would speak and respond to questions at community meetings in different parts of the city before the Board’s final selection.