Easy way for police to gain Kansas City’s trust after fatal shooting: Release the video

The Star
·3 min read

On Sunday, officers with the Kansas City Police Department fatally shot a suspected automobile thief. Ultimately, an investigation will determine if the deadly encounter in the parking lot of the Phillips 66 on Prospect Avenue near East 55th Street was justified.

In an attempt to improve community relations, the Kansas City Police Department should release video footage of this and all other use-of-force incidents. Transparency and openness make for good government, and other police departments are moving toward routinely releasing such video as standard operating procedure.

We need to see for ourselves what led to the latest deadly encounter, the third fatal police shooting this year. Video surveillance from the store shows what occurred, according to the store owner. As of Monday, the business owner had not watched the video, but he provided a copy to investigators, he said. Citing privacy concerns, he declined to let us view the footage.

We know investigators were reviewing footage from police dashcam video and body-worn cameras, as well as the store’s video surveillance, as a spokesperson for the Missouri Highway Patrol told reporters Sunday.

The next day, we were still waiting for more information from the Highway Patrol, the agency tasked with investigating shooting incidents involving Kansas City Police officers.

The incident began around 9:45 p.m. Sunday when uniformed officers observed a man suspected of driving a stolen vehicle coming out of the store, according to the Highway Patrol. Officers warned the man not to enter the vehicle, a 17-year-old witness told the Star.

The man disregarded commands from officers, entered the SUV and attempted to evade arrest, according to authorities. By Monday, the man hadn’t been identified. In his attempt to flee, he rammed a police van with the SUV, law enforcement officials said. One officer dove to avoid harm, officials said. A volley of shots followed, the teen witness said. The gravely injured man died at a local hospital, according to the Highway Patrol.

Video footage could corroborate or disprove any claims made by officers and witnesses.

Releasing videos of officer-involved shootings is good for relations between law enforcement and the public. Don’t believe us? Look no further than Akron, Ohio.

In Akron, police body-worn camera footage is required to be released within seven days of an officer using deadly force. Since December, video footage from four deadly police shootings in Akron have been viewed publicly. In Kansas City, no such measure of public accountability is in place.

Across Missouri in St. Louis, a recently established independent Civilian Oversight Board will have subpoena power to conduct investigations of police misconduct and use-of-force incidents. Kansas City’s Office of Civilian Complaints, which lacks such authority, is toothless compared to our counterpart on the eastern side of the state.

Three times this year, Kansas City police officers have been involved in a deadly shooting. We still don’t know the extent of two police officers’ involvement in a shooting outside the Ale House in Westport that left one man dead. We asked the Highway Patrol to update us on that case, too.

We’re still waiting.

Kansas City, unlike Akron and other places, has no mechanism in place to force the release of any police video. Because the Kansas City Police Department is governed by a five-member police board appointed by the governor, residents have little say in how the city is policed. Only Mayor Quinton Lucas, one of the five board members, is accountable to city voters.

We stand firmly against the current oversight structure, which leaves residents without input in how the police department is operated.

Other cities have improved transparency between the police department and their residents by adding layers of accountability for police misconduct. Kansas City deserves the same.