KC Police Chief Rick Smith is still being forced out, no matter what apologists say

Evan Vucci
·4 min read

Nothing has changed since Tuesday: Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith still needs to go, ASAP. And he’s still being forced out.

If anything, the urgency of his ouster, not someday but now, has only been made clearer since Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Board Chairman Mark Tolbert told him on Tuesday that he was going to be retiring early.

Since then, Smith and his allies have said that he’s “not going anywhere.” Which is not remotely true.

By late Tuesday, Kansas City Council member Teresa Loar was texting colleagues to say that she’d just talked to Smith, who said he had “no plans to leave and does not know of any plan to make him leave.”

That was also false; he definitely did know of such a plan. A severance agreement drafted by Tolbert after that morning’s City Hall meeting, where Lucas told him he had to resign or be fired, begins by thanking him for his service.

“This memo is to confirm our conversation,” says the agreement, which Smith has neither signed nor said he won’t honor. “The terms of understanding being 1) You will retire from your position as Kansas City Chief of Police, 2) You will announce your retirement to the public on March 1, 2022, 3) Your last day on the job will be April 22, 2022 and 4) You will be compensated at your current salary through August 31, 2022.

The Board of Police Commissioners will be in touch with you to discuss and confirm the specific terms of your retirement and severance agreement. Sincerely, Bishop Mark C. Tolbert, President.”

A discussion of Smith’s severance package does not sound like he “does not know of any plan to make him leave,” does it?

According to head Smith cheerleader and former police board member Nathan Garrett, the chief does have a plan to leave, but was always going to retire next year — say, maybe in August. And any report to the contrary is a hoaxed-up — ack! — pathetic lie. Smith’s allies claim that he has been saying for five years that he would leave in 2022.

Only, Smith had never announced publicly that he had planned to retire next year. Four months ago, Smith told Barb Shelly in an interview for The Pitch that he had no plans to leave, period. “My philosophy is I want to work and spend time running this organization.” The KCPD has always responded to various retirement rumors by saying that they knew of no plan or timeline.

Now, though, the time he’s been made to retire just happens to coincide with the time he was always going to retire. In a further coincidence, only in response to questions about the Tuesday meeting did the KCPD say that yes, he is leaving the job, as a matter of fact.

Clashes with Jackson County prosecutor, court, community

For Smith, the truth has always been whatever he says it is. Thus all police shootings are good shootings, manslaughter charges against an officer are a big nothing, and anyone who sees that what Smith is doing isn’t working for either the community or his own officers is a cop-hating bad guy.

Whatever we call this coup, the Trumpian — what you see is not what’s happening — distance between reality and Smith World has never been more obvious.

His intransigence has put him at odds with the Jackson County prosecutor, the court, the community, and many of his own employees. But because he’s so insulated, surrounding himself with admirers and lashing out at any who fail to see that he’s always right, he might really not know that.

Under Smith, the department just keeps paying out settlements for wrong conduct that the chief sees as right.

The family of Cameron Lamb, the 29-year-old Black man KCPD detective Eric DeValkenaere shot dead nine seconds after running into Lamb’s own backyard without a warrant in 2019, has now filed a civil suit. DeValkanaere has been found guilty of manslaughter in Lamb’s killing, and his family will likely win millions.

Prosecutors may still investigate whether evidence meant to excuse police action was planted after DeValkenaere shot him. Lamb was given no medical aid for 14 minutes, and was dead by the time paramedics were finally allowed in.

Smith owns this KCPD, which can’t change while he’s in charge.

There are still a bunch of unknowns here: Will City Council members let Smith know that he’ll either go now, or else watch them block police funding for any more than what’s required by law?

Will Missouri lawmakers go ahead and confirm Dawn Cramer, the newest member of the police board, who after agreeing with Lucas that Smith should leave in January, has now put out a statement saying that she will support Smith until he retires?

But here’s what we do know: Smith isn’t thinking about what’s best for Kansas City, or for the department, but only for himself. And more than anything, that’s why, no matter how much his supporters huff and puff, he can’t go soon enough.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting