Interfaith group calls for action on fatal Kansas City police shootings

Kansas City police responded to the scene of a police shooting in the 7800 block of 111th Terrace that left one suspect dead in the backyard in 2010.
Kansas City police responded to the scene of a police shooting in the 7800 block of 111th Terrace that left one suspect dead in the backyard in 2010. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Officials of an interfaith organization on Sunday called on Kansas City police and the police commission to take action in the wake of an article in The Kansas City Star that said officers here have killed 47 people since 2005.

The newspaper compared data from 11 other cities and found that Kansas City ranked third per capita behind St. Louis and Cleveland in fatal police shootings. Nearly 60 percent of those killed were black, although police say race is not a factor in the use of deadly force.

Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congreation Kol Ami called the numbers “very disturbing.”

Alpert is head of the criminal justice task force for More2, a Kansas City interfaith social justice organization. He said Kansas City may need a civilian monitoring committee to look at police shootings or some involvement from the Department of Justice.

“Our response here today and in the days to come is not, and shouldn’t be, construed as a response that is anti-police or that we do not recognize and honor the courageous work they do,” Alpert said at a press conference at Swope Parkway United Christian Church.

“What we seek here today and in our actions going forward from today is to not only make for a more racially just Kansas City but also aid our police in doing a better job and creating an environment in which they are more connected to and trusted by the communities they serve,” Alpert said.

Alpert said he would first like the Board of Police Commissioners to recognize there is a problem.

Board President Michael C. Rader told The Star he did not think a civilian monitor for Kansas City police shootings was necessary, but he said the board would consider it if the community calls out for one. Police Chief Darryl Forté said he was not opposed to the idea if handled properly.

In none of the 47 fatal police shootings in Kansas City since 2005 have any criminal charges been brought against officers. Most were cleared by grand juries.

The Rev. Rodney Williams of Swope Parkway United Christian Church said Sunday the community is looking for a high level of accountability from police.

“It is the job of the church and the community to highlight and spotlight systems that may not be equitable,” he said. “We’re not making any demands at this time, but we are concerned and you will hear more from us in the days ahead.”

Kiku Brooks of Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church, who is an executive board member of More2, said Sunday that something needs to be done.

“I stand before you making a verbal and public complaint about the police-involved shootings that have gone unheard and uncared about,” Brooks said. “It is time to put a larger spotlight, a more brilliant light, on our Kansas City Police Department and on all of these police-involved shootings.”

A joint action between More2 and One Struggle KC is planned for 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC