A panel of high-ranking Kansas City Police Department officials that reviews fatal police shootings and other serious incidents has not met for more than a year and a half.
In that time, KCPD’s officers have been involved in six fatal shootings, including one last month.
The Notable Event Review Panel (NERP) has included the police chief, training unit commanders, internal affairs officers and department attorneys, among others. The group can make policy and training recommendations to the police chief, who then presents the suggestions to bureau commanders. It is one of the main ways that, in theory, police leaders make formal judgments on officers’ use of force.
The police department attributed the span between meetings to the pandemic and changes in investigation procedures including the so-called “police bill of rights,” which went into effect across Missouri over a year ago.
Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a local social justice organization, said that the 18 month gap was “outrageous.”
“If something happened in my workplace where someone got physically injured and one of my staff members was involved in it, if I waited a year and a half and still didn’t have a meeting scheduled — the public should be outraged.”
In 2019, NERP convened a dozen times and in 2020, it met six times. It last gathered March 5, 2021, according to the department.
Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office said he “hopes the gubernatorially-appointed board members share his view that the board should seek at their next meeting an update from department commanders on where the lengthy review of the notable events policy currently stands.”
The next regular Board of Police Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27.
Capt. Leslie Foreman, a spokeswoman for the department, said NERP does not meet on a set schedule and that the pandemic has caused several delays.
The panel’s policies are also being reworked because of changes to investigative procedures, said Officer Donna Drake. That includes calling in the Missouri State Highway Patrol to investigate police shootings in Kansas City, a change that was announced in June 2020.
And in August 2021, a state law dubbed the “police bill of rights” enacted procedural protections for officers facing disciplinary investigations.
McDonald said she was concerned that changes from the “police bill of rights” would hinder transparency.
“Anytime they tell us that they’re retooling or changing something, it seems like it’s to the detriment of the public and in favor of some kind of protection of police officers, especially those who are engaged in wrongdoing ... like protect and serve who?” McDonald said.
Drake said there is no time frame for making the changes to NERP’s protocols and no panel is scheduled.
She added that prior to the NERP analysis, cases undergo an internal review and a criminal investigation.
“We recognize there are lessons to be learned from each officer involved shooting in our agency. We take this responsibility very seriously when deadly forced is used by an officer,” the department said in a statement.
“There are still multiple levels of review and accountability.“
Destiny Carrillo said she wants to see the panel convene to discuss her brother’s case. Dario Dominguez, 25, was fatally shot June 20, 2021. Four of the officers at the scene of the shooting were with KCPD and one was with the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department. No charges were filed in the criminal investigation, according to Jonathan Carter, spokesman for the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office.
But Carrillo said her family is still searching for answers and have not been able to get much information about what happened.
“It’s not right,” she said.
NERP has also been criticized for making few recommendations. The past 43 incidents have resulted in nine training recommendations and zero policy recommendations.
When the panel met in 2021, it reviewed seven incidents including a Westport shooting dating back to 2016.
Officials also discussed a Sept. 2, 2017, encounter at a Kansas City Walmart where a man was tackled by an officer. Brian Prince landed face-first on the tile floor. He ended up on life support and later died. His parents have sued the police department in a wrongful death lawsuit scheduled to go to trial in October.