After stumbling a bit with the words to become Kansas City’s new interim police chief, David Zimmerman had some advice for those who want the permanent post.
“That oath is a lot harder than it seemed when I looked at it,” Zimmerman said, as he and others laughed.
By 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Kansas City’s newest police chief had been sworn in and said he was ready to get to work. Though Zimmerman’s time at the top post will be temporary, it comes at a crucial time as the city gears up for the summer and combats a rising homicide rate.
With his background — which includes 34 years at the department working in several divisions — it eases pressure for the Board of Police Commissioners when selecting a permanent chief, said the board’s president, Leland Shurin.
Never miss a local story.
“Because of Deputy Chief Zimmerman’s experience, his wisdom and his great commitment to this wonderful organization, we can take our time,” Shurin said, just before Zimmerman was sworn in. “We are extremely comfortable with him in his new position.”
Zimmerman takes over for Chief Darryl Forté, who led the department since October 2011. Forté, the city’s first African-American police chief, alerted leaders of the police board in March about his decision to retire.
Forté became known for his calming and consistent presence in keeping his city’s peace while other cities experienced civil unrest following fatal police shootings involving African-Americans. Yet police union officials have sharply criticized Forté for comments he had made in support of those protesting police shootings.
Zimmerman said Saturday that he’s worked closely with Forté and has known him for 25 years. He praised the former chief for what he accomplished and said he too feels it’s important to work alongside the community.
“A lot of the things he did are important and I plan to continue those,” Zimmerman said. “We’re going to continue to keep going business as usual.”
The department continues to address an increase in violence. Not just in homicides but in shootings.
From 2014 to 2016, the city saw a staggering 64 percent spike in nonfatal shootings, an increase from 290 in 2014 to 477 last year. And this year, the city is on pace to shatter those numbers. The number of shooting victims through April is 14 percent greater than last year and 128 percent more than in 2014.
As for homicides, the city is dealing with four killings along two trails — the Indian Creek Trail and the Blue River Trail — since August.
“The city, I believe, is safe,” Zimmerman said Saturday. “What we are dealing with is areas where gun violence is a big concern.”
And like Forté, the interim chief said he’ll respond and communicate with the community when violence occurs.
“I expect to be out there with our deputy chiefs,” Zimmerman said. “And tell people how concerned we are and do what we can do to address the situation.”
Reporter Glenn E. Rice contributed to this report.