‘Who are you protecting?’ Protesters call for KCPD to hire more Black police officers

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, a community activist group held a silent protest urging the police department to recruit, hire and retain more Black and Brown officers, especially women.

The group, Good Trouble KC, stood on the steps of the Kansas City Police Department’s downtown headquarters holding signs that read “Who Are You Serving?” “Who Are You Protecting?” and “Gun Control Will Protect Police Officers and The Public.”

The activists asked the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners to hire an outside firm to study racial inequity and unconscious bias in the police department.

“One of the things that an equity assessment would do is identify unconscious bias and identify conscious bias too,” said Scott Myers, an organizer with the group. “And this would help to begin to work on that and you have to work on it. It’s a learning process. It’s an understanding process.”

Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a police spokesman, said top department officials report on hiring each month at the public police board meeting so commissioners and the public can keep track of recruitment efforts.

“KCPD is committed to fair hiring practices, and we are always making efforts at recruitment and hiring a diverse and capable work force to serve Kansas City that reflects Kansas City,” Becchina said in an email to The Star.

Members of Good Trouble KC held protest signs during the monthly meeting of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, where they requested the police board to hire a firm to study racial bias in the police department.

Initially, Myers said, the group was not allowed to bring their signs inside the police board meeting. But they were permitted to go inside the community room where the meeting was being held. The group sat in the front row. They left after more than an hour.

The group also wants the police department to advocate for gun reform, promote a ban on assault weapons and create an independent, civilian review board that would replace the Office of Community Complaints.

Myers said the complaint office lacks the authority to thoroughly investigate or review complaints from citizens.

The group also wants the police department to create an incentive program for minority and women officers that would provide $15,000 loans childcare or down payments on homes.

The group acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation of racism in the police department’s hiring and employment practices. That investigation followed a series of stories published by The Star revealing racist treatment of Black officers in the police department.

For decades, the police department has struggled to keep Black officers. Nearly 30% of Kansas City residents are Black, but less than 12% of officers in department are Black, according to recent KCPD statistics.

Good Trouble KC’s request seeks to examine how minority officers are treated inside the police department, organizers said Tuesday.

“KCPD needs an equity assessment in order to learn the truth about a persistent culture of racial inequity in the department and in its relationship with the community.” Stan Morgan, an organizer of the group said in a written statement.

“This is for the community’s well being and safety, but it is also for the officers themselves.”