Future of Policing: Part 1

Panelists address police reform in Kansas City

The Future of Policing is the second discussion in the Critical Conversations series sponsored by the office of UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer was the latest chapter in a bigger story. From police stops to use of force and arrests to incarceration and the death penalty, nearly every aspect of the criminal justice system is pervaded by racial disparities. On July 30, panelists discussed the history of policing and actions for reform moving forward, focusing on Kansas City. Another Critical Conversations discussion will be held on Aug. 27 to further examine the future of policing.

Participating panelists included:

  • Gary O’Bannon (co-moderator), executive-in-residence, Henry W. Bloch School of Management and former director of human resources, City of Kansas City, Missouri
  • Jasmine Ward (co-moderator), third-year student at the UMKC School of Law
  • Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County prosecutor
  • Emanuel Cleaver III, senior pastor, St. James United Methodist Church
  • Damon Daniel, president, AdHoc Group Against Crime
  • Toya Like, associate professor, UMKC Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology

The importance of engaging the community and rebuilding trust of the police was a common theme throughout the discussion. In Kansas City, panelists said a lack of local control, unresolved complaints, unsolved cases and biased policing has resulted in distrust of the police.

Currently, the city does not have local control over its police department — making it the only city in Missouri and one of the largest in the U.S. that doesn’t govern its own police force. The Kansas City Police Department is controlled by a five-member board (among the members is Mayor Quinton Lucas) appointed by the governor. The argument for local control has pros (making decisions regarding police without having to go through Jefferson City) and cons (the challenge of putting together a new structure for the KCPD).

Whether or not the city gains local control over the police department, Cleaver suggested forming an independent review board to address community complaints in an effort to foster trust. Right now, complaints are overseen by the police department and community members feel many are unresolved. Peters Baker added that two out of 10 violent crimes come to her office for charges, meaning that eight cases go unsolved leading to further distrust of police.

Calls to reallocate funding and increase training for police officers have been heard across the country. All the panelists agreed that changes in funding should be considered, including training on recognizing bias, ongoing psychological evaluations for officers and systematically reviewing cases where excessive force was used to improve future encounters. Like wants to remove confusion around defunding the police, a common call-to-action during recent protests, by putting community safety and reformation at the forefront.

Watch the discussion in its entirety below and check-in on the original story to see when part two of the future of policing will be announced this fall. 


Published: Aug 7, 2020