KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A coalition of 16 local organizations did something that’s never been done when it comes to finding a Kansas City police chief.

They spent weeks surveying residents about what they want to see in the next chief, and on Tuesday, the groups submitted their report to the Board of Police Commissioners.

The new chief will replace Rick Smith who retired in April. While the police board looks for Smith’s replacement, Joe Mabin is serving as interim police chief.

The report details survey and listening session results from diverse communities in Kansas City. The coalition said people who attended the listening sessions said they felt important because for once someone was listening to them.

“The community has a responsibility, and we are expressing our concerns that we’re going to be a part of this change,” Pedro Zamora, executive director of the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation, said. “We want to be the change agent from the community upward.”

Over 1,190 community members responded to the survey, and 181 responses came from the Kansas City Police Department in its separate survey.

The results showed nine themes that were consistent from the sessions with community members and members of the police department:

  • The new chief needs to be front facing and engaged in the community  
  • The new chief needs to be an effective communicator
  • Data and best practices must be transparent and a key component of the new chief’s strategy and vision  
  • The new chief must develop and communicate a clear vision and strategy for the department  
  • The new chief needs to address perceived issues of underlying racism within the department   
  • The new chief needs to have a priority focus on training, with a particular emphasis on de-escalation and racial bias training  
  • The new chief needs to prioritize mental health within both the community and the department  
  • The new chief needs to re-examine and improve the internal investigation process  
  • The new chief must have the ability to navigate the political landscape  

Survey results differed between the community and police officers, however.

Department members preferred a chief that emphasizes staff promotion, training and success, along with officer retention, according to results.

Kansas Citians focused on a new chief that can build trust with community members and someone who will emphasize the use of de-escalation techniques and hold department staff accountable.

After the presentation, Board President Bishop Mark Tolbert said the goals are the same, but the challenge is the process.

“All of the surveys and reports will help us to guide that search committee, and so I can assure you that this work was not premature,” Tolbert said.

The coalition said the next steps are holding the board accountable.

Coalition Members

  • Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City   
  • Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Civic Council of Greater Kansas City  
  • Downtown Council  
  • Getting to the Heart of the Matter 
  • Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Hispanic Economic Development Corporation  
  • KC Common Good  
  • Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce  
  • Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce 
  • Northeast KC Chamber of Commerce   
  • Prospect Business Association  
  • South Kansas City Alliance 
  • South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce 

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