Two men with extensive law enforcement experience and strong community connections were announced Thursday as finalists to be the next Kansas City police chief.
Kansas City Police Maj. Rick Smith and Norman, Okla., Police Chief Keith Humphrey are the two finalists to replace Interim Police Chief David Zimmerman, who was appointed after Chief Darryl Forté unexpectedly announced that he would retire in May.
The police board interviewed nine candidates and selected three as finalists. The third, Detroit Deputy Chief Ulysha Renee Hall, dropped out when she was named the Dallas police chief Wednesday.
A public forum at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, will feature submitted questions and residents to hear the finalists’ goals for the Police Department. The session will take place in the community room of police headquarters at 1125 Locust St. Residents are encouraged to submit questions via email to board members before the meeting, and those submitted questions will be conveyed by a moderator rather than allowing the public to make extended comments.
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Smith, who currently is commander of the Central Patrol Division on Linwood Boulevard, said he was honored to be selected as a finalist.
Humphrey, who has led the Norman police department since 2011, said he was honored and humbled to continue the process.
“A lot of qualified candidates submitted their names for consideration, and for the selection committee to think so highly of my resume and me as a person to select me for this, I’m speechless,” Humphrey said.
Board President Leland Shurin said he was pleased with final crop of candidates.
“Each candidate is highly intelligent, has many years of police experience, is creative, a problem solver, approachable and strongly supports community policing and officers on the streets,” Shurin said. “They further understand the technology needed for today’s criminal deterrence and investigations.
“And lastly each had evidenced an ability to get along with and work with everyone, including prosecutors, business and political leaders, officers who report to them and everyday citizens.”
Of the 42 internal and external candidates who applied for the top job, 10 did not qualify by state statute. The board whittled the 32 remaining to 10. One dropped out, and the board spent 15 hours interviewing the remaining nine.
Smith, 51, attended high school in St. Paul, Minn. He later graduated from Park University. During his 28-year tenure in Kansas City, Smith has held numerous supervisory and leadership roles. He was supervisor during the investigations of serial killers Wayne Dumond and Daniel Jones. Smith also helped federal authorities investigate break-ins at Tivol’s and Meierotto’s jewelry stores.
Humphrey launched his law enforcement career in Fort Worth, Texas. He later became police chief in Lancaster, Texas, a Dallas suburb near his hometown of Oak Cliff. While in Lancaster, Humphrey oversaw the construction of a $13 million public safety facility and launched the department’s community service division.
Mayor Sly James was deliberately circumspect Thursday when he talked about the police finalists with the city council.
He told his council colleagues Humphrey has been police chief of two different cities.
“He was generally brought in when there was a police department that needed a turnaround, and he did that,” James said. “He’s an interesting individual. But so is the other (Smith). They’re both very interesting individuals.”
James later declined further comment about the two finalists, saying he didn’t want to be perceived as trying to tilt his comments toward either candidate one way or the other.
James did say a third, highly sought-after candidate was lured away by Dallas.
“Renee Hall, deputy chief from Dallas, was selected for the police chief position in Dallas at more money than we could’ve paid under the statute, and she also has family there,” the mayor said.
He said the competition right now for good candidates is fierce because Kansas City is one of eight major cities across the country trying to hire a new police chief.
Zimmerman has served as the department’s interim police chief since May and will continue in that role until a permanent police chief is named. The new police chief is expected to be selected by late August or early September.
In March, Forté unexpectedly announced that he would retire in May. The police board hired Ralph Andersen & Associates to conduct a national search for a new chief.
The next police chief will inherit a department that remains under state control, has more than 1,800 sworn officers and civilian employees as well as an annual operating budget of $250.8 million.
The department is looking to confront a sharp increase in homicides, with 80 so far this year and a continued rise in gun and street violence.
The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99, the police union representing 1,500 officers, thinks the next chief must understand the best and most efficient way to use the department’s resources, union president Brad Lemon said.
“Our members and the Kansas City community find themselves in dire need of an individual who possesses strong leadership qualities along with the experience, skill and ability to address increasing crime with a sense of urgency,” Lemon said in a statement.
Since June, a number of officers were reassigned to patrol and targeted high-crime areas in four small geographic locations throughout the city. The additional officers are patrolling neighborhoods that have seen an increase in drive-by shootings, traffic fatalities and crime.
A staffing study released last week concluded that the police department is top heavy with managers compared with other similar-sized or larger cities. The department should work quickly to get more patrol officers on the street, it said.
Those outside of the Police Department have speculated the board is poised to select a new chief before Gov. Eric Greitens is able to replace of three members whose terms have expired.
Civic and community leaders say Greitens wants to influence the selection of a new police chief.
Kansas City’s police chiefs have historically come through the department ranks. It is rare that someone outside of the department is selected to the top post. The last time that happened was in 1973, when the board hired former New York Police Capt. Joseph McNamara to replace Clarence Kelley. McNamara had a tumultuous tenure and resigned in 1976.
The next chief is expected to build on the community outreach and policing innovations that served as Forté’s hallmark.
Forté was appointed chief nearly six years ago. He has been credited for his leadership during a period where tensions between police and African-Americans escalated after fatal police shooting deaths in Kansas City and other communities.
Forté has said that he plans to attend law school.
Ask the finalists
Questions to be asked at a community forum on Thursday, July 27, may be emailed to Board of Police Commissioners Secretary/Attorney David Kenner at firstname.lastname@example.org, board President Leland Shurin at LShurin@sls-law.com, or to board assistant Bethany Ruoff at Bethany.Ruoff@kcpd.org.
Questions also can be mailed to:
The Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City, ATTN: Bethany Ruoff, 1125 Locust St., Kansas City, MO 64106
Or to: Shaffer Lombardo Shurin, ATTN: Leland Shurin, 2001 Wyandotte St., Kansas City, MO 64108