The Kansas City Police Department announced Tuesday that officials will stop holding regular media briefings each morning at department headquarters, as they have done for the past several years.
The regular briefings, in which Police Department officials met with reporters to provide updates on recent incidents and fielded questions, had been an initiative of former Police Chief Darryl Forté.
Forté, the first African-American to lead the department, had held the post since 2011. He told leaders of the police board in March about his decision to retire.
Interim Police Chief David Zimmerman was sworn in Saturday, saying he expected the Police Department to continue “business as usual.” Zimmerman had previously served as deputy chief.
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On Tuesday morning, Capt. Stacey Graves, a police spokeswoman, announced in an email the decision to stop regular morning briefings.
“Please note, there will no longer be a regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. media briefing,” the email read in part. “We value your time and our relationship and will still have availability for interviews when needed. As always, please email us (public information officers Graves, Sgt. Kari Thompson, Officer Darin Snapp) your inquiries and we will respond as soon as possible.”
In a separate statement, Graves said one reason for the change was low attendance at some briefings, although many briefings were attended by several reporters.
“We will still have briefings, just not regularly scheduled briefings every day,” Graves wrote in an email. “We plan to continue the open communication and relationship we currently have.”
Community activist Vernon Howard Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City and senior pastor of St. Mark Union Church, said he had questions about the decision. Especially, he said, as it comes during a period of leadership transition at the Police Department.
“Why would you decrease communication during a time of transition?” Howard asked. “We are in a season, or age, of law enforcement with respect to communities of color and poor communities, where the more transparency there is, and the more communication of truth and facts there are, about crime statistics, about policies and procedures, the better.
“We need more communication, collaboration, transparency, building of trust and relationships — not less,” Howard said.
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners has said it is conducting a national search to find a new police chief.
The board has hired a national search firm, Ralph Andersen & Associates, to help. One of four that submitted bids for the job, the firm will identify four or five candidates for the board.
Several internal and external candidates are expected to apply. The deadline to apply is May 31. The board will meet with the firm to review the candidates and select the finalists. The new police chief is expected to be selected by late August or early September.
Kansas City police commissioners held a series of community forums earlier this month to receive citizens’ input about who should be selected to be the next chief. The board may hold more forums after finalists have been named.
Star reporter Glenn Rice contributed to this report.