Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté denied Wednesday there was any racial bias in how police enforced the city’s curfew laws last year.
Forté addressed the City Council’s public safety committee regarding statistics that showed three-fourths of the youths held last year for curfew violations were African-Americans. He said there were no complaints from any of those violators about racially biased policing.
Some council members had raised concerns last week about the disproportionate share of cases involving African-Americans when compared to their percentage of the Kansas City population.
Statistics released Wednesday showed gender was actually the more dramatic factor: Twice as many cases involved girls as boys last year.
“We do everything we can to avoid arresting people on these curfew violations,” Forté told the committee, adding that holding youths takes up a lot of police time while they wait for a responsible adult to arrive.
He said officers prefer to move crowds of kids along and keep the peace, but they detain juveniles when things start to get out of hand and public safety is at risk.
A total of 63 curfew citations were recorded in 2013 for violations of either of two municipal ordinances, one governing the city’s entertainment districts and the other governing the rest of the city. While the youths are taken into protective custody for being out past curfew, parents or guardians get the citations.
All the entertainment district violations were recorded from the Country Club Plaza, and Forté said that’s because no problems were reported in the other entertainment districts. Of those detained on the Plaza, nine were black males, 10 were black females, one was a white male and one was a white female.
Elsewhere in the city, police detained 28 black females, 10 white females and four white males.
Forté said he wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers go up this year because police are having to deal with crowds of young, unruly people even in cold months. He said most kids follow the rules, but police are seeing curfew violators as young as 9 years old.
City Councilman Scott Taylor said the problem rests with irresponsible parents.
“We need to call on parents to step up and be parents,” he said.
Committee members John Sharp and Michael Brooks wondered whether part of the problem is that the city has multiple curfew rules for different age groups and times of the year, which can be confusing.
One ordinance sets a special 9 p.m. curfew every night from Memorial Day weekend through September for unaccompanied minors in five entertainment districts: the Country Club Plaza, 18th and Vine, Westport, Zona Rosa and downtown.
Elsewhere in the city from Memorial Day through September, the curfew is 10 p.m. for minors under age 16 and 11 p.m. for those ages 16 and 17. During the school year, the citywide curfew for minors is midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. on weeknights.
Forté said he thinks kids and parents can learn the rules and the city doesn’t need to bend over backward to make things simple for them with one uniform curfew. But he said he would work with council members if they want to change the policy.