KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While helping crews take proactive steps to protect Plaza buildings ahead of more expected protests on Sunday, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte said he wasn’t surprised violence erupted Saturday night, and that law enforcement agencies must make changes and have candid talks with communities that distrust the police.
Sheriff Forte spoke at length with FOX4’s Carey Wickersham on Sunday morning, and discussed the need to do more things before catastrophes break out like they did at the Plaza, and across the country in the days following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“We created some problems in law enforcement with certain segments of the community that we ignored for years. I’m hoping that we’ll get something further than a few meetings out of this. I’m hoping we get something because it’s real. As a black male that was raised in Kansas City, Mo., racial profiling and other things are real, and normally we don’t listen until there’s property damage, until there’s total destruction. We have to stay on top of these things and talk about them, even when we’re uncomfortable.” Sheriff Forte said.
“We have to continue to talk about these things and not wait until post-incident, we need to talk pre-incident. People are telling us over and over, and I’m not surprised this happened, I’m not surprised this happened in Kansas City.”
While Floyd’s death is the most recent incident to spark outrage, Forte says many deadly and violent encounters between African Americans and police officers have built up frustration within that community and led to the explosion of nationwide protests.
“This has been festering for decades… decades. It’s not just this incident, it’s all these other incidents that have happened around the country for years. If you look at the stats for homicides in Kansas City, in 1968 there were 99 homicides, 1969 it jumped up to 116, it’s probably been less than 15 years that it’s been under 100,” Forte said.
“And that tells me, when I was a sergeant in the homicide unit, that’s when trust was really broken between police and other segments of the community. We in the community, sometimes we don’t trust the police, I’ve been racially profiled before, it’s real. We have to talk about it and do something about it.”
While he did not mention it directly, in 1968 Kansas City was one of dozens of American cities that experienced riots in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The riots were precipitated by schools remaining open the day of Dr. King’s funeral, leading to student protests and clashes with police where officers used tear gas, followed by days of violence where six people died, dozens were hurt and many were arrested.
There are more protests scheduled in the metro on Sunday, and like many other leaders have said, Forte urges protesters to amplify their voices while remaining peaceful so their message can resonate.
“I want to tell the people out there: Don’t throw rocks. It’s okay to protest and make your demands known, but don’t throw rocks, we don’t want anyone injured. We know in law enforcement we’ve made some mistakes over the years and we can continue to make mistakes. We have to admit it and we have to change,” he said.