Using the ‘n’ word, jumping onto the hoods of cars and finally running from the police, a group of black youth Saturday night helped reignite the controversy over how teenagers are treated in general on the Country Club Plaza.
The most essential facts of what happened are caught on a two-minute videotape shot by one of the people walking with the youth.
Here is a link to the video. Warning for extreme language.
The police rush in at the end and tackle several suspects. Police Chief Darryl Forté soon tweeted what had happened. He is a constant presence on the weekend on the Plaza, especially reporting on whether trouble is occurring there.
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Forté is sensitive to whether his police force is cracking down on black youth, in particular, and not watching to see whether white youth also are violating the city’s curfew. He previously has defended the actions of his department on the Plaza.
(And on Monday, he wrote his “KCPD Chief’s Blog” on the incident, headlined, “On the Plaza, we’ll engage at the level necessary to prevent crime.”)
His weekend tweets stirred a response from Alonzo Washington, who has been honored for helping solve crimes while not being bashful about raising concerns about how laws are enforced in this region, especially when it involves black residents.
Part of their instructive exchange highlights the difficulty of enforcing a color-blind curfew on the Plaza; for the record, both men are black.
Forté initially tweeted: “Several juveniles arrested on Plaza for damaging at least 3 vehicles. Officers observed juv standing on the hood of vehicles.”
“The juveniles were arrested for breaking the law. Once again I’ll share that arrests are made based on behavior & nothing else.”
And then this from the chief: “Plaza Plan: engage at the level necessary to prevent crime and to keep everyone safe. Will continue to focus on the disobedient.”
“Great, I suggested that approach from day 1. I think it's more important 2 do it that way after the Mike Brown event!”
Forté: “I’ve practiced this approach since I was appointed. Review my comments from yrs past about engaging as necessary.”
Washington: “I understand but the curfew puts all Black youth in conflict with police & fines mostly poor kids.”
“furthermore, it mainly used against Black kids that makes it similar to segregation! It's not good 4 the city!”
“I also think it's terrible for police & community relations. It's going 2 be a ton of Black who kicked off the plaza”
(cont) “that will never give tips. Couple that with the fact that some White girls got fined & when 2 court & beat it.”
Forté: “We use curfew enforcement as a last resort. It’s not about race, it’s about keeping our young people safe.”
Washington: “I think segregation is a step back 4 KCMO. Just with the trouble makers & end the curfew!”
Forté: “I disagree, not used against Black kids. Used to hold kids and parents accountable. Based on behavior not race!”
“Curfew not the issue. Kids are not being arrested for violating the curfew. Being arrested for other infractions.”
Washington: “I respect that. I just don't think most Black kids see it that way.”
Another person jumped into the conversation, tweeting: “Why is race always brought into a situation?! These kids are frightening people and damaging property.”
Washington: “The press promotes the issue like all Black kids want 2 tear it up when most want 2 hang out like Whites do”
Forté: “Fear not, as of last week not a single curfew violation had been issued on the Plaza. Most kids follow rules/laws.”
The weekend incident at the least insures a continued spotlight on how black youth are treated on the Plaza as the spring and summer wear on.
Forté knows many people will be watching how his department handles the situation, but also appears ready to explain what’s going on to the public as well.