Kanasas City police take action to strengthen community relations

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Last week's deadly police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, combined with the deaths of five police officers in Texas, are renewing calls for an independent monitor to review the actions of Kansas City police.

At Oak Park, there are efforts to build community connections as officers often visit with kids in the neighborhood as part of a summer basketball league.

The basketball program is organized by a civilian police community outreach specialist. When the league games start at 6 p.m., more than 100 people are expected in the park, and police officers make it a point to stop by, watch and encourage the players. The idea is to build relationship with children and show officers as human beings, who can be their friends, rather than a force to fear.

"A lot of these kids come from homes or houses that say the police are bad guys," said Pat Clarke, KCPD community outreach specialist. "That’s only because of situations the parents have had with other officers. Yeah, we got some bad officers. But the good override the bad. So I introduce them to the good."

But the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity says more needs to be done to limit deadly police shootings in Kansas City. The group says police here have shot and killed 47 people in a ten year period, a rate that's much higher than comparable cities.

"The concern is over not just police involved shootings, but the disproportionate number of blacks who are victims of police involved shootings," said Rabbi Doug Alpert of MORE2. "One thing would be after the fact we would like to see a citizens review panel that is independent that can engender a sense of trust in the process. But also we would like to see training before the incident occurs. More sensitivity to the needs of the black community. A type of training that defuse tension rather than increases tension."

City leaders, including Police Chief Darryl Forte,  have said they are open to discussing independent police monitors. Police do have an Office of Community Complaints which is charged with reviewing officers' actions.