Prairie Village, Roeland Park enroll in racial equity program

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PRAIRIE VIILLAGE, Kan. — City leaders in Johnson County are working to address racial equity through a new pilot program.

The Roeland Park and Prairie Village city councils have enrolled in the Racial Equity in Cities Pilot Program.

Kathryn Evans is the manager of special projects for United Community Services, the organization spearheading the Racial Equity in Cities pilot program. 

“For Johnson County in particular, given the county’s history of residential segregation that birthed the Johnson County suburbs. It’s really important we recon with that history and make conscious policy choices that prevent us from repeating the past and equip us to design a more equitable future for all Johnson County residents,” Evans said. 

The pilot program won’t create new policy for cities within Johnson County, but instead will advise community leaders on ways to establish a greater awareness, analysis and action with regards to racial equity.

Johnson County jurisdictions will receive strategic planning service and technical assistance from United Community Services and other partner agencies. 

Evans said the program will focus on helping community leaders re-evaluate policy and remove potential barriers affecting people of color. 

“Our goal here is not necessarily to prescribe a specific path for the organizations to take, but to equip them with the information that they need and the skills to apply knowledge to their organizations,” she said. 

Evans said examples of healthy race equity culture can include:

  • A promotion process for city workers that anticipates and mitigates biases against people of color who might want to serve in leadership positions. 
  • A process to examine internal processes and procedures to eliminate bias and inequitable treatment. 
  • Leadership who outline specific goals and set benchmarks related to racial equity internally and in the community.
  • Establishing educational plans to expand race equity knowledge in the community.

Evans said a majority of the program is funded through the United Community Service and partner agencies, but jurisdictions do have to make a financial commitment of $6,000-$10,000 depending on the size of the city.

Community leaders in Lenexa, Mission and Johnson County government have also expressed interest in joining the program, according to Evans.  

Each city will set its own goals for how to address racial equity. Evans said after protests across the county last summer, many jurisdictions may choose to evaluate how city police interact with the public. 

“A lot of organizations are looking for ways in which they can build more trust between communities of color and law enforcement,” Evans said. “We anticipate that might be a place where these jurisdictions will apply their knowledge.”

Evans said cities may begin to evaluate their policies and address racial equity by:

  • Adjusting hiring practices and procedures for city workers to eliminate biases.
  • Evaluating how public policies are currently being enforced.
  • Establish an educational program about racial equity.

“Ultimately we want to see an improved racial equity culture within the jurisdictions that we are working in,” Evans said. 

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