KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “I personally felt disrespected, being a law enforcement wife.”
Offense taken. One line in a speech by Kansas City, Kan. Mayor Mark Holland has caused controversy in the community.
The mayor’s remarks came last Wednesday at a news conference about the killing of KCK officer Dave Melton. A comment about “the loss of innocent lives at the hands of police” had some people watching stop, rewind, and watch again.
FOX 4’s Shannon O’Brien spoke to Mayor Holland about his remark.
Holland told FOX 4 he was just trying to address the national narrative of violence that’s been happening in our country involving police. The offending phrase was one line of a seven-paragraph speech about Capt. Melton’s death.
“Captain Melton’s death reopens a raw hurt still festering within our community. Further, in the two months between our officers’ deaths, our nation has erupted with violence,” Holland said at the news conference. “We have seen the loss of innocent lives at the hands of police; and we have seen the ambush and murder of police who were actively protecting the public. Our nation is in uncertain times.”
It was that line — “the loss of innocent lives at the hands of police” — that the Fraternal Order of Police said did not sit well with many officers, especially considering the remark came less than 24 hours after Melton was shot.
Many people in the community were offended, and one officer’s wife told FOX 4 why the comment upset her.
“That line made me stop and literally rewind to watch it again because I was appalled that those words came out of his mouth,” said Dana Bye, the wife of a law enforcement officer. “We have barely started to even know what our new norm is after losing Lancaster. Now we have it again, and we have to have political rhetoric thrown in our faces.”
“I hear that. I also know that the statement as a whole has been well-received and I think people hear my heart through that. That’s my hope. I hope that people hear my heart,” Holland explained. “I hope that people take that statement as part of a larger narrative that … is creating a lot of grief in our community, and a lot of grief nationally.”
Bye believes that by localizing this national narrative, the mayor is playing a dangerous game that could create more violence against police officers.
“When you have the ability to have your entire city and a nation watching you and the words that come out of your mouth, you have a huge responsibility. I think his number one responsibility should have been to Capt. Melton’s family and the family of the Police Department,” Bye said.
“I hope that throughout whatever statements were made that people heard my heart and I would express my heart in a statement again,” said Holland, pointing out that the majority of his speech was expressing his grief over the loss of Captain Melton as well as the line-of-duty death of Det. Brad Lancaster 11 weeks ago. He does not want one line to overshadow a speech that he says expresses his heart.
Read the full speech from Mayor Mark Holland:
My thoughts and prayers continue to be for Captain Melton’s family during this time of tragic loss. I am also very aware of the pain and loss in our department at this senseless killing of a dedicated veteran of our force. My thoughts and prayers are with all of our police officers.
Our community is still reeling and healing from the loss just two months ago of Detective Brad Lancaster. Our thoughts continue to go out to his family and friends. Detective Lancaster’s death brought home for all of us the very real dangers of police work in our community and in our nation. His death was the first on our department in 19 years and many of us hoped another generation would pass before tragedy and evil struck our department again. But his death tells us that tragedy and evil are always possible in this line of work.
Captain Melton’s death reopens a raw hurt still festering within our community. Further, in the two months between our officers’ deaths, our nation has erupted with violence. We have seen the loss of innocent lives at the hands of police; and we have seen the ambush and murder of police who were actively protecting the public. Our nation is in uncertain times.
We do not believe Captain Melton’s death was a planned ambush against police. We believe this case is another example of a known criminal trying to escape arrest. Yet we all need to worry that the national climate may foster greater fear and potentially inflame otherwise normal interactions into tragedies. This fear sometimes feels bigger than all of us. And yet, I believe Kansas City, Kansas will faithfully rise above this fear.
The recent deaths of these two officers, along with the tragedies we are witnessing across the nation, force all of us into a conversation about protecting our citizens and safeguarding our police. Our city has come a long way in the last twenty years in large part because of the community relationships we have built between our neighborhood groups and the police. Because of this cooperation we have a 40-year low in violent crime. We are reminded again today, we have not come far enough.
We will continue to move forward more strongly than ever in building community relationships that reduce crime and violence to protect both our community and our police. Two criminals in two months will not undo twenty years of successful partnership between our police and our community.
I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support. The pulling together in love and support is the antidote to hate. As Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I believe in Kansas City, Kansas.