Star survey asked for input on Kansas City’s next police chief. Here’s what you said.

·3 min read

With Police Chief Rick Smith leaving the Kansas City Police Department in the coming months, the search for the next top cop will happen under heightened scrutiny.

The new chief will be chosen by the Board of Police Commissioners, whose members are mostly chosen by Missouri’s governor. But Kansas Citians’ taxes will pay the person’s salary.

To better understand what city residents want in their next police chief, The Star in December put out an online survey. Respondents, and more than a dozen local leaders interviewed by The Star, generally said they hope the board will hire a leader prepared to take police accountability and the city’s homicide rate seriously.

Since then, more residents from across the city have responded to the survey. Here’s what some of the 25 respondents said.

  • A woman who lives in south Kansas City said the next chief should have a background in community policing and a track record of examining underlying causes of crime. The chief, she said, should know how to partner with nonprofits and neighborhood groups to address those factors. “Fresh eyes and ears able to discern what Kansas City can do differently,” she wrote.

  • A resident who lives in the 64109 ZIP code said she wants the next chief to be humble, patient and willing to admit wrongdoing. The chief must be a person of color or a woman, she said. “Bravery to break the status quo, root out corruption, and make actual change,” she wrote. “Willingness to direct funds to community-created and -led resources.”

  • Numerous respondents from across the city said the next chief should have a proven track record in driving down the number of shootings and killings. A man who lives in the 64156 ZIP code in the Northland said that should be the new chief’s top priority. “Reducing homicides, too many people are dying,” he wrote. Another resident, who lives in the 64113 ZIP code, wrote: “Even with a massive budget, it doesn’t seem that the KCPD has made any progress on lowering crime in the city.”

  • A resident in the 64110 ZIP code said a large portion of the community finds current police leadership untrustworthy, whether fairly or not, so the next chief must regain respect for KCPD. “Until people respect the officers it will be almost impossible to gain the level of trust necessary for effective law enforcement and service to the community,” the respondent wrote.

  • A woman in the 64124 ZIP code in Northeast Kansas City said the new chief must be a person of color who lives south of the Missouri River in Kansas City. Asked about top priorities, she wrote: “De-escalation training, social work, remediating poverty.”

  • A resident in the 64106 ZIP code said the new chief should focus on harm reduction and have a “strong plan” for reforming the department. “Someone experienced with reform in another city might be a great fit, but reform may come easier if it is someone who has rapport and respect within the department,” she wrote.

During the process to hire Smith after Police Chief Darryl Forté retired in 2017, the police board tapped an outside firm to conduct a national search for a new chief. The months-long process included interviews with board members and a series of public meetings to receive input from residents.

It remains unclear what the hiring process will look like in the coming months.