The public is invited to meet Thursday evening with the two finalists for the job of chief of police: Maj. Rick Smith of Kansas City and Chief Keith Humphrey of Norman, Okla.
Attendees won’t be allowed to ask questions at the meeting, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at police headquarters. Instead, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners wants the public to submit written questions in advance.
This seems strange. Interacting with the public will be part of the new chief’s job — we’d like to see how both candidates handle a live give-and-take.
But written questions it is. Here are a dozen:
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1. Do you support local control of the police department? Mayor Sly James, a member of the police board, has repeatedly called for direct City Council supervision of the police department. Kansas City is the only city in America that lacks full control of its police.
2. Do you support body cameras for officers? In June, the department said it would cost $6 million to implement a body camera program, including the hiring of additional personnel to deal with the video.
That cost seems excessive. Do you agree? Should body cameras and a policy for their use be a high priority?
3. Should civilians do more jobs in the police department? Two recent studies have suggested the department should be more efficient in order to put more officers on the street.
4. Are officers paid enough? According to city figures, a starting officer’s annual base pay is $43,404, with 10 paid holidays, three weeks of vacation and five “quality” days a year. Does the pay and benefit package for officers make sense?
5. Should officers be allowed to take cars home? Last year, an audit said take-home cars were driven 2.5 million miles for commuting and personal reasons over a 12-month period, costing $1.5 million. Is this a good use of taxpayer dollars?
6. Is the department doing enough to recruit minorities to the force? African-Americans and Latinos are represented on the police force at half the rate of the general population. Is this a problem? How might it be corrected?
7. Should the department do more to investigate and clear cases involving non-lethal shootings? Non-fatal shootings often are precursors to homicides, exacerbating the city’s violent crime problem.
8. Is the Office of Community Complaints doing a good job protecting the rights of citizens?
9. Do you endorse the goals and approaches of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, known as KC NoVA?
10. Should the city judge your performance by the murder rate? If not, what other measure might be used?
11. Do you support more active “community policing” in Kansas City, with officers walking beats and neighborhoods?
12. Do you support the Justice Department’s renewed effort to aggressively seize property from criminal suspects before trial?
Finally: Will you commit to a department that is transparent, open and accountable?
Here, a hint: The answer should be yes.