Good news: Mayor Sly James said Tuesday he’s open to discussing possible changes in how police-related shootings are investigated in Kansas City.
Those were James’ first public comments on The Star’s recent stories on the high number of shootings by the city’s police officers over the last 11 years.
After an afternoon meeting at City Hall, I asked James whether he supported Chief Darryl Forté in his comments to Star reporters that some kind of change in oversight of police shooting investigations might be a good thing. Forté said, “I am certainly not opposed to any change in practice that has the potential to build trust between the police and the other segments of the community.”
James told me, “I’m very open to having this discussion with the (police) board.”
James is the only elected official on the five-member board; the rest are civilians appointed by the governor of Missouri.
Unfortunately, the mayor had declined to talk to Star reporters or the editorial board about the topic of police shootings in recent days. The Star’s editorial Tuesday morning said the city needed to confront the high rate of deadly police shootings, which could include changing how they are investigated through a credible, independent review process.
On Tuesday, James told me he had declined to comment to The Star because he wanted to “stay in my lane” at the police board.
Specifically, he said, he had deferred to board president Michael C. Rader to speak for the group rather than make it appear that — as mayor — it was “my place” to speak for the board.
Alas, Rader did not appear open to much change.
He told Star reporters: “If the Kansas City community calls for an organization such as the Office of Community Complaints to expand their duties to investigating officer-involved shootings, we’ll consider it. But I don’t think that is necessary at this time.”
When I pressed James on Tuesday, he said he had not had a chance to talk to Forté about what the chief might support if changes in protocols around police-related shootings are proposed.
After I noted that despite being just one member of the board, he was also the mayor of the city, James repeated his assertion that he was “absolutely open” to having a discussion about possible changes in probes of police investigations.
Now, that needs to happen.