Federal and local law enforcement authorities met Friday with about two dozen Kansas City area minority leaders for a discussion about civil rights laws and police shootings.
And although events in Ferguson, Mo., framed the discussion, officials were careful not to discuss the unrest in the St. Louis County community.
“We can’t talk about what’s going on in Ferguson, but obviously that is hanging over all of us,” said Barry Grissom, the U.S. attorney for Kansas. “We need to have a dialogue.”
The meeting, held at the FBI’s headquarters in Kansas City, covered questions about the use of force by police and federal law enforcement’s involvement when local officers are accused of violating a person’s constitutional rights.
Supervisory Special Agent Heith Janke, who leads the FBI’s public corruption and civil rights squad, promised the group that if he is called on to open a local investigation, it would be thorough and fair.
But he also said that the probe probably would take more time than the community expected.
“These are long and time-consuming investigations,” Janke said. “It takes many months to get these facts collected and submitted to a grand jury.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste noted that his agents are permitted to use deadly force only when facing an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.
“It is not shooting to kill,” Kaste said. “It’s shooting to eliminate the threat.”
C.L. Bachus, senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan., urged law enforcement leaders to be vigilant about policing their own agencies.
“Public officials are always going to be under the gun,” Bachus said. “The best thing you can do is to make sure the things you are accused of aren’t true.”
Charles Jean-Baptiste of the Johnson County NAACP asked others to engage with their local police departments rather than waiting for invitations. Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté echoed that sentiment when the group pressed law enforcement officials to do a better job of minority recruiting.
Community leaders have a duty to recommend promising candidates for jobs in federal, state and local law enforcement, Forté said.
“Send them to us,” Forté said. “We can’t do it all ourselves.”