Police union leaders from both sides of the state line criticized Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté Wednesday night for comments he made about the issue of police shootings of black men.
Those comments came in a recent interview with The Star, in which Forté also discussed his experiences as a black police chief in America and talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and institutional racism.
“There is an issue with too many African-American men being killed by police officers,” Forté said. “And part of it, in my opinion, is unreasonable fear.” Forté also said poor training was a factor.
Forté’s remarks drew a quick response from Kansas City, Kan., police union leader Scott Kirkpatrick, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, who responded in an open letter posted online Wednesday.
Kirkpatrick took issue with Forté’s use of the phrase “unreasonable fear.” Kirkpatrick pointed to the recent deaths in the line of duty of Kansas City, Kan., police Det. Brad Lancaster, who was shot and killed in May, and police Capt. Robert Melton, who was shot and killed last month.
“To suggest that an officer’s fear at any time is per se unreasonable without knowing the facts represents a monumental misunderstanding of the job we are doing out of the streets in the current climate,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “The fear is real. People are out to harm us. And now your comments will only make things worse.”
Also on Wednesday, Kansas City police union leader Brad Lemon issued a statement extending his criticism to other statements Forté has made in public meetings about police use of force. Lemon, who is president of FOP Lodge #99, also complained that Forté said some in the department have opposed the police chief’s initiatives.
Forté stood by his comments as he responded to the criticism Wednesday night.
In a blog post, Forté said that the remarks in question could best be understood in the context of the whole interview, which included a wide-ranging discussion of policing issues.
“I do respect others’ opinions, and I apologize if anyone was offended by my comments about police-involved shootings of black males,” Forté said. “I said some of those incidents were the result of unreasonable fear and poor training on behalf of the police. I was in no way referencing any particular incident or any particular department.”
“I’d also like to welcome anyone with concerns about anything I say or do to contact me directly,” Forté continued. “I’d love to discuss the issues one-on-one and perhaps provide more context and the reasons behind my thinking.”