On Sept. 19, the Kansas City Police Department became the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation is the result of the alleged long-term mistreatment of women and minorities by the KCPD, specifically in regard to its hiring practices.
The inquiry came about after the Kansas City Star published several articles describing widespread police harassment against Black citizens and even amongst their fellow officers, causing many Black cops to resign. According to the Star’s reporting, 18 Black officers resigned over a 15-year period, and despite making up 27% of Kansas City’s population, Black individuals currently only make up 12% of the police force.
While public trust in the police from white citizens has remained steady, confidence from Black citizens has fluctuated over the past few years, a 2021 Gallup poll reported. They remarked that Black citizen’s confidence in police reached an all-time low in 2020 following nation-wide protests to police violence, and remains slow to recover.
In a nationwide evaluation of policing practices, KCPD ranked among the lowest of Missouri’s 526 departments. The evaluation, compiled by the nonprofit organization Police Scorecard, reported that KCPD obtained more funding per capita, but consistently used more non-lethal and lethal force per arrest and spent more funds on misconduct settlements than 77%, 73%, 96% and 67% of other Missouri police departments respectively. The evaluation also reported that there was a greater racial disparity in use of deadly force than 62% of other departments.
On Oct. 14, a second bombshell report emerged, published by the Kansas City Defender and accusing the KCPD of failing to take concerns seriously as Kansas City community leaders reported that Black women were being targeted and kidnapped on Prospect Avenue. Just a week prior to the report on Oct. 7, a Black woman escaped captivity in Excelsior Springs, claiming that the suspect who held her in his basement kidnapped her from Prospect Avenue and also murdered several other women. Attempts to bring attention to the alleged kidnappings began in September, but according to the Defender, the KCPD addressed the disappearances as “completely unfounded” with no need for an investigation.
According to the DOJ, their investigation will specifically determine if KCPD promoted employment or hiring “pattern or practice of discrimination based on race” in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Civil rights leaders, including Gwen Grant who is president and CEO of Urban League of Kansas City, remain hopeful that the investigation is “just the beginning of a deeper dive that will also expand this investigation into patterns and practices of excessive and deadly force.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke positively of the DOJ’s investigation at a news conference about the issue: “Most of our conversations, not just in Kansas City, but in the state of Missouri, have not looked at how we can make sure that our officers — particularly officers of color and women — can be taken care of, [and] have not looked at how we can become a more diverse department reflective of our city. I think no matter what becomes of this investigation, it’s important for us to take steps and make sure we’re doing right by our officers.”
The interim Police Chief Joseph Mabin said the department plans to fully cooperate with the investigation.