Two candidates for police chief in Kansas City presented their cases to the public during an open forum Thursday at police headquarters in downtown.
Both candidates spoke on their past experiences and goals to serve as police chief. They presented arguments on which of them is better prepared to lead the Police Department.
Smith, a graduate of Park University, has been with the Kansas City department since 1988 and has held numerous supervisory and leadership roles.
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He thinks his experience with Kansas City police sets him apart from other candidates because he already has a rapport with the community.
“I think I bring a piece of innovation. I think I bring a piece of good policing. I think I bring a piece of building good relationships in this community for 29 years,” Smith said afterward. “I think I bring a piece of great leadership. Put those all together, and I think I make a great chief.”
Smith plans to use that familiarity to foster an effective relationship between the department, its officers and residents.
“Building trust isn’t going to happen overnight,” he said.
Humphrey started his police career in Fort Worth, Texas. He later became police chief in Lancaster, Texas, a Dallas suburb. While in Lancaster, Humphrey oversaw the construction of a $13 million public safety facility, launched the department’s community service division and other initiatives.
He believes he is the perfect fit for Kansas City.
“The department is not broken, from what I see,” Humphrey said. “But there needs to be some innovation and new ideas that need to come in.”
Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police, said both candidates had really strong comments in a couple of areas.
“It was clear that (Humphrey) had a lot of experience in other areas outside of Kansas City,” Lemon said. “It’s clear that Rick Smith comes with a lot of interior information and can work from a lot of the issues that we have.”
Throughout the two-hour forum, both finalists responded to written questions the police board had received before the event.
Smith and Humphrey addressed how they would handle officer-involved shootings, the use of force, community policing, diversity and building better relationships with neighborhoods and faith-based groups.
Of the 42 internal and external candidates who applied for the top job, 10 did not qualify by state statute. The board whittled the 32 remaining to 10. One dropped out, and the board spent 15 hours interviewing the remaining nine.
David Zimmerman has served as the department’s interim police chief since May and will continue in that role until a permanent police chief is named.
In March, Police Darryl Forté unexpectedly announced that he would retire in May. The police board hired Ralph Andersen & Associates to conduct a national search for a new chief.
The next police chief will inherit a department that remains under state control, has more than 1,800 sworn officers and civilian employees as well as an annual operating budget of $250.8 million.
The department is looking to curtail a sharp increase in homicides, with 85 so far this year, and a continued rise in gun and street violence.
Since June, a number of officers were deployed to patrol high-crime areas in four small geographic locations throughout the city. The additional officers patrol neighborhoods that have seen an increase in drive-by shootings, traffic fatalities and crime.
A staffing study said that the Police Department is top heavy with managers compared with other similar-sized or larger cities. The department should work quickly to get more patrol officers on the street, it said.
Both Smith and Humphrey said additional officers were needed on the streets to fortify the department’s patrol divisions.
Humphrey’s plan is to take recruiting efforts out into the community. Every officer, Humphrey said, has a role in recruiting.
“You have to sell the profession,” he said.
Smith wants more officers on the streets and better trained violent crime detectives. He stressed he would like to work in concert with faith-based groups to help recruit a diverse Police Department.
“We’re all in this together,” Smith said.
Smith also suggested more emphasis should be placed on the use of social media in addressing gun violence and street crimes.
Humphrey said he agrees with the practice.
“There’s nothing wrong with telling the neighborhoods what’s going on in their community in real time,” he said.