Kansas City social justice group is likely to revisit police shootings

The subject of fatal police shootings, and the idea of an independent monitor to investigate them, is likely to come up at a previously scheduled Monday meeting of a Kansas City area interfaith group that advocates social justice.

Leaders of the organization More2 (More Squared) decided in June they wanted to focus on policing. The latest fatal police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and suburban Minneapolis make local efforts all the more important, they say.

“This issue comes up at every meeting that we have,” said Kiku Brooks of Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church, who is a co-chair of the group’s crime and justice task force. “We’re doing a lot of research into other cities that have an outside (police oversight) entity. With these two shootings, I know there will be a lot of people more zealous in helping us get this research done.”

More2 called on the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners in January to take action in the wake of a series in The Star examining fatal police shootings. The newspaper found that Kansas City police shot and killed 47 people from 2005 to 2015, a per capita rate higher than many other cities. None of the officers involved was charged with a crime, and police said that in each case the shooting was justified.

Nearly 60 percent of the people killed by Kansas City police were black, but police said in all cases the officers involved acted to protect themselves, the lives of other officers or, in some cases, civilians.

The Star explored an approach from Denver and elsewhere that uses an independent monitor to oversee law enforcement and investigate officer-involved shootings.

Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami, who is a co-chair of More2’s criminal justice task force, said at the time Kansas City might need a civilian monitoring committee to look at police shootings.

Lora McDonald, executive director of More2, said the organization remains leaning toward “some kind of outside review process.”

“The police department clearly is not capable of policing itself,” McDonald said.

McDonald spoke before five police officers were killed in Dallas. She said later that Monday’s discussion would probably focus on all the violence of the preceding week.

She said More2 has good relationships with peace officers.

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté told The Star in its examination of police shootings that he was not opposed to the idea of a monitor if it were handled properly. Mayor Sly James later said he would be open to a discussion about it.

Police board president Michael C. Rader said 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 called out for one.

Brooks said More2, which represents 27 congregations in the metropolitan area, will not stop in its advocacy.

“We’re not going to rest until black people and brown people are served and protected at the same level as other citizens,” she said.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC