Sheriff Forté reflects on 35-year career of breaking barriers in Kansas City, Jackson County

Black History Month

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté worked his way up the ranks to become police chief and then was elected sheriff. 

Forté, who grew up in Kansas City, put in an application to Kansas City Police Department when he was 19. But that wasn’t when his law enforcement career began.

“I applied for the police department in 1983, but I was rejected and sent a letter that said I can never reapply,” Forté said. “I called back, and they would never tell me the reason why.” 

Forté was determined to be an officer, so he applied again and was accepted to the Police Academy in 1985. 

In 1992, he was selected to be a sergeant. In his time with the department, Forté worked on patrol, and in the homicide, employment and drug units. Then in October 2011, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners appointed him as the department’s first Black chief. 

“There were so many Blacks before me. They could have been excellent chiefs of police of the Kansas City Police Department, and many of them helped a lot of us get promoted,” Forté said. 

In his role, Forté focused on improving relationships with the community and diversifying the department. 

“I believe in coming early, staying late, giving more than what I’m paid for, and just being accessible to everyone, and I love talking to people,” he said. 

In 2017, Forté retired as chief with more than 9,000 unpaid vacation and sick hours. This resulted in a nearly $500,000 payout that some questioned. 

“I didn’t take any vacation time for six years,” Forté said. “I was so deeply involved in it that I wanted to make sure I represented our community well and I represented my family well, so I didn’t take a lot of time off.” 

Less than a year after retirement, he was appointed as Jackson County sheriff, breaking another barrier. 

“Now this is the best job in the world,” Forté said. “We got great people at the sheriff’s office. I’m one of two Black sheriffs in the state of Missouri.” 

Since then, Forté has been elected twice. He hopes to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. 

“I think it’s about coming together with other segments of the community and not dividing us every time something happens,” Forté said. “And us doing a better job of understanding the communities that we police. I think once we do that, I think that’ll alleviate some of the tension, but it’ll never go away completely.” 

When asked what advice he has for young people interested in law enforcement, Forté said: “Be yourself. Don’t try to assimilate, accentuate, be yourself.”

“We talk about diversity, then we bring people together in the academy and say, ‘This is how you need to be. This how you need to be.’ Be yourself and bring who you are to the table,” he added. 

Forté’s current term is up in 2024, and he said he’ll likely run for sheriff again. 

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