Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the death of George Floyd has renewed conversations nationwide around policing, police reforms, race and social equity.
As the guilty verdicts were handed down Tuesday, “What’s Your KCQ?” — a partnership between The Star and the Kansas City Public Library — put out a call asking what questions you have about police brutality cases and police reforms in Kansas and Missouri.
This unique platform allows us to connect with you directly to continue this important conversation locally. Several readers have responded with questions that we will answer them the best we can.
How are police brutality incidents tracked and who is the information reported to?
There is no national registry that tracks police misconduct, although one has been proposed under a major police reform bill backed by congressional Democrats.
The FBI has has created the National Use of Force Data Collection, which began collecting data from law enforcement agencies in January 2019. Participation is voluntary and not all Kansas and Missouri agencies participate.
In 2020, only 17 of 631 agencies, representing 26% of sworn law enforcement officers, in Missouri participated and provided use-of-force data. In Kansas, 324 of 435 agencies, representing 93% of sworn officers, participated and provided use-of-force data.
Local agencies participating include the Jackson County Department of Corrections, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Kansas City, Bonner Springs, Leawood, Lenexa, Lawrence, Olathe, Overland Park, Kansas City, Kansas, and North Kansas City.
Each police agency has its own department that tracks complaints of alleged police misconduct and brutality. For the Kansas City Police Department, it’s the Office of Community Complaints, which is a civilian oversight agency that works under the authority of the Board of Police Commissioners.
Those complaints are closed to the public; however, monthly, quarterly and annual reports showing the number of complaints are available online at https://kccommunitycomplaints.org/reports/. Other departments provide statistics on the number of complaints as well.
Following the protests last summer, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office created a website where community members could submit allegations and evidence of police misconduct.
The Kansas Commission on Peace Officer’s Standards and Training, which grants certification to all full- and part-time officers in the state, investigates alleged police misconduct. For information on filing a complaint, go to https://www.kscpost.org/violations.html. The agency also posts actions it takes on officers’ certifications online.
In Missouri, the Peace Officer Standards and training Program is responsible for licensing police officers and conducting investigations for disciplining. For information on filing a complaint go to https://dps.mo.gov/dir/programs/post/disciplinary.php.
Do officers with credible brutality complaints remain on the force?
Yes. Earlier this month, for example, The Star reported that two Kansas City police officers accused of allegedly beating a man in the summer of 2019 had been accused of two other assaults that year.
The officers, Charles Prichard and Matthew Brummett, were indicted last year in a widely-criticized arrest.
Prichard and Brummett pleaded not guilty to third-degree assault charges in the arrest of Breona Hill, a Black transgender woman, outside of a beauty supply store in 2019. Video showed that Hill’s face was smashed into the concrete sidewalk during the arrest, according to prosecutors.
Both officers are still paid by the department and have been assigned to plain clothes, non-law enforcement administrative duties.
In 2020, Officer Blayne Newton fatally shot 24-year-old Donnie Sanders, who was unarmed. Prosecutors said there was not sufficient evidence to charge Newton. During an arrest months later, Newton allegedly put his knee on the back of a pregnant Black woman who had her belly on the ground.
Newton was still with the department and was assigned to the patrol bureau, the police department confirmed Thursday.
Do all police officers in Kansas City have body cameras? Can they turn them off?
Kansas City police announced on Thursday that all of its patrol officers have been equipped with body cameras. That includes approximately 900 patrol, traffic and tactical officers. The cost will be about $4 million each year.
Last month, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners approved new policies for body cameras which require officers to activate the cameras during every contact with the public.
Kansas City worked with community members, and local and federal prosecutors to help develop its program and policies on how video footage would be stored and used in investigations and when cameras are activated.
But not all police departments in the Kansas City area have body cameras for their officers.
A November editorial in The Star reported that several officers remained on the public payroll despite having been charged with crimes. What is the status of these officers?
The reader is referencing a Nov. 23 editorial, “KC police officers charged with crimes still on payroll, courtesy of Chief Rick Smith,” which found that four officers were still being paid.
Those officers include Detective Eric J. DeValkenaere, who was faces involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action charges after being indicted by a Jackson County grand jury in the shooting death of Cameron Lamb in 2019, Officer Matthew Neal, who has been charged with felony assault in the beating of a 15-year-old in 2019, and Officers Prichard and Brummett, who each were charged with misdemeanor assault in the arrest of Breona Hill in 2019.
The Star found that in at least one case, that of DeValkenaere, the order to pay an indicted officer’s salary directly conflicts with the department public policy. Smith decided to keep paying him based on another department policy that says the chief “may” suspend an officer during an investigation or for discipline.
The department on Thursday confirmed that all four are still being paid by the department. DeValkenaere remains on suspension while Neal remains on administrative leave. Prichard and Brummett have been reassigned to non-law enforcement administrative duties.
Have a question of your own? Ask at kansascity.com/kcq or email firstname.lastname@example.org.