KANSAS CITY, ,Kan. — A sunny afternoon at Boston Daniels Park in Kansas City, Kansas reveals that the space has seen better days.

Chipped stone, cracked sidewalks, and a sign with a broken post causing it to be slanted to one side honor a man who did his best to keep his community on the straight and narrow.

Daniels capped off a long career in the KCK Police Department when he became the police chief, becoming the first Black person to hold that position in the department’s history.

“It was all based on his respect for all citizens,” said Daniels’ great niece Karen Daniels. “We were raised in our family knowing who Boston Daniels was and the contributions he made to Kansas City, Kansas.”

Those contributions started, in a police officer’s uniform, in the late 1940’s when Daniels filled out an application to become a KCK police officer.

“I mean, just imagine,” said current KCK Police Chief Karl Oakman. “1947.”

World War II was over, but Daniels was applying before the Civil Rights Movement.

Twenty years later, America was checkered with racial strife, but police departments were changing after the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice were published in 1967. Walking a beat, building connections, and other community-based actions were becoming much more common in policing when Daniels was tapped to lead KCK Police.

“It was probably, when you look at it, for a midwestern city, it was probably progressive and cutting edge in 1969 to have a black Police Chief,” Oakman said. “You want the community to know that you’re there as a police officer to serve the community, not police the community, and that’s what Boston Daniels represented.”

Karen says her family tells stories of Boston showing up to a call for service, and attempting to address the underlying problems that created the call in the first place. When students had trouble getting to school, Karen said Boston would be there to help.

“A lot of people knew who Boston Daniels was,” Karen said. “He visited people’s homes. Single mothers would call Boston Daniels not scared that their child was going to be arrested but that their child would get the help that they needed.”

The irony isn’t lost on anyone that the United States is having the same conversations around policing more than a half century later.

Chief Oakman says police departments across the nation were forced to focus so much on enforcement activities through the crack epidemic in the 1980’s that many of those community-building efforts were gradually abandoned.

It’s why Karen is trying to find a way to address the harm, including the past events that have happened in KCK, and repair the trust in the community by being a driving force behind the effort to fix up the park named for her great uncle.

“If we can unite this area and build some type of relationship between the citizens and the police, then I think he would be very pleased,” Karen said.

Local funding and federal grants are covering the planning, which is happening right now, and the construction that’s slated for later this summer.

The new park will likely have a picnic shelter, new sidewalks, refurbished entrances, a new playground, more seating, and a statue of Boston Daniels, with plaques explaining who he was and what he did in KCK.

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“I think it just goes back to being able to remember that legacy and honor that legacy and keep that history alive,” said Unified Government Parks and Recreation Director Angel Ferrara. “So, people can come and tangibly see that and really identify and put a face to a name and somebody’s legacy to the community.”

“It’s going to be steppingstone not just for my children but for generations of children to come,” Karen said.