Aja’Nae Holmes was disappointed that none of several questions she submitted to a panel of law enforcement officials was answered, particularly one about body cameras on police officers.
But later the freshman at African-Centered College Preparatory Academy got some personal face time and a few answers from Police Chief Darryl Forté of Kansas City.
“I agree with you. We need cameras,” Forté said after the formal Q&A session. “But you’ve got to have a policy to say when you turn it off and when you don’t.”
The exchange was part of an unusual gathering that brought together more than 300 young people from across the metro area with local and federal law enforcement officials to encourage trust and communication. Both U.S. attorneys from the districts of Kansas and western Missouri attended the forum Wednesday at the Mohart community center in Kansas City. The FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department were also represented.
Media were not allowed in for the first hour and a half of the session in the hope that the young people would speak more freely.
“The kids asked the questions,” said Araceli Wagner, a program specialist with the Camp Fire youth organization. “A lot of them were about Baltimore and Ferguson. That was the topic of the night.”
Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., experienced protests and violence in recent months after police killed young black men.
“I thought it was very informative,” Hafsa Hussein said after the closed portion of the forum was over. The senior at Staley High School in Kansas City came away with assurances that she was welcome to approach law enforcement.
“If I have a concern that I would like to bring to the attention of the authorities, I would call them,” Hussein said. “I have the power.”
Omari Tatum, a freshman at African-Centered College Prep, said the forum was a learning experience but he also was disappointed that his submitted questions did not get answered.
“I asked what a black male whose rights were violated could do, and they refused to answer that,” Tatum said.
Forté told Holmes that Kansas City police have a committee looking at the issue of body cameras for officers. He said the cameras could not be set to automatically record every encounter because some people with information about criminals, or victims of sexual offenses, may not want to be recorded talking to police.
Eric K. Jackson, special agent in charge of the Kansas City office of the FBI, held a prolonged conversation with a group of people from Somalia about their concerns regarding law enforcement.
“I’m targeting bad people,” Jackson told them. “I’m not targeting the Somali community.”
Jackson handed his personal business card to one individual.
“You now have access,” he said.
Word about the Kansas City forum was spread through schools, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and other avenues.
After the closed session, the youths mingled with law enforcement officials demonstrating various aspects of police work, from crime scene investigation to bomb-probing robots to hostage negotiations. Pizza and cookies were provided for the youths.
Curfew change starts Friday
Kansas City’s warm weather curfews go into effect Friday and will be in place through Sept. 27.
▪ Minors must be with a parent after 9 p.m. at the Country Club Plaza, Westport, downtown’s central business district, 18th and Vine, and Zona Rosa.
▪ The citywide curfew is 10 p.m. for youths ages 15 and under and 11 p.m. for youths ages 16 and 17.
▪ Youths attending Club KC must go directly home after the event concludes.
▪ Violators will be detained, and parents can be fined up to $500.