Kansas City’s search for a new chief of police has narrowed to two men: Major Rick Smith, a veteran of the Kansas City Police Department, and Keith Humphrey, the current chief of police in Norman, Okla.
Both will meet with the public next week. The Board of Police Commissioners — maybe at full strength, maybe not — will make the final choice at a future date.
The process that yielded the two finalists appears thorough, and Kansas Citians should not prejudge either candidate. Let’s hear from them first.
At the same time, it’s hard to dismiss the nagging fear that Kansas City will not get the transformative police chief many would like to see.
Smith joined the Kansas City police force in 1988. He has had a variety of assignments, in homicide, robbery, patrol divisions, and planning and research.
Smith also played a role in the case of disgraced former priest Shawn Ratigan, who was convicted of producing child pornography and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Smith, then a police captain, was a member of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Independent Review Board and was a part of the Ratigan inquiry. By all known accounts, Smith acted properly.
Nevertheless, the police board should satisfy itself fully on this issue before making a final decision.
He would face challenges in Kansas City that are far different from those in Norman, which is roughly the size of Independence, Mo.
To be sure, Humphrey could bring a welcome outside perspective to the Kansas City department. The board should take that into consideration.
Whatever the board decides, the next chief has much to do. Violent crime is the biggest problem, but efficient deployment of personnel is also an issue. A recent report found the department has far too many upper-level employees and not enough patrol officers.
The department’s new leader will confront an entrenched hierarchy that some think is wasteful and inefficient. He must ensure that the police force is modern, well-trained and cost-efficient. He’ll need to study the costs and benefits of body cameras for officers. He may be asked to hire civilian replacements for uniformed positions.
The new chief will inherit a department that has remained largely free of scandal and claims of excessive force. That’s good news for both candidates.
There was a third finalist for the Kansas City job: Deputy Chief U. Renee Hall of Detroit. She was considered a strong contender in Kansas City until she took the chief’s job in Dallas this week.
Hall was just one of two women applicants in Kansas City. Forty men applied.
It’s distressing that more women candidates did not seek the Kansas City position. Two women now serve as lieutenant colonels in the Kansas City department; there are four majors and seven captains. Fifteen percent of the city’s uniformed officers and officer candidates are women.
After hiring the next chief, the city should redouble efforts to encourage women officers to climb the same career ladder that male officers ascend.
Meet the finalists
Members of the public who wish to meet the two finalists for Kansas City police chief can do so from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at Kansas City Police Headquarters, 1125 Locust St.
The meeting will take place in the Community Room.
Questions must be submitted before the meeting. They may be submitted by email to David Kenner, firstname.lastname@example.org, Leland Shurin, LShurin@sls-law.com, or Bethany Ruoff, Bethany.Ruoff@kcpd.org.
Questions can also be mailed to the Board of Police Commissioners, Attn: Bethany Ruoff, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, Mo. 64106, or to Shaffer Lombardo Shurin, Attn: Leland Shurin, 2001 Wyandotte St., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.