Mayor Mark Holland today outlined a plan to increase diversity in the police, fire and sheriff’s departments.
The level of minority staffing in these departments does not come up to the level of minorities in the population of Kansas City, Kan., according to Unified Government figures. The topic was discussed at a special Unified Government Commission meeting at 5 p.m.
A task force will examine the diversity of the staffing of the departments, Holland said. Already, a group has held several meetings on the subject of diversity for months, and a larger community task force will be appointed that will develop recommendations for steps that may be taken, Holland said.
Kansas City, Kan., has a 26.8 percent black population, and a 27.8 percent Hispanic population, according to UG figures from the census. Currently, the police department is 11.6 percent black and 10.7 percent Hispanic, according to UG figures.
Holland said some public forums would be held beginning in October to receive public comments.
Because Kansas City, Kan., leads the metro area and much of the nation in diversity in the community, Holland said he expected public safety departments here to lead in diversity as well. He said he would like to develop a model that could be used in other communities.
After the discussion about increasing diversity in the public safety departments, Interim Police Chief Ellen Hanson addressed questions about the police department’s use of force, and other areas such as improving relationships in the community. Commissioner Gayle Townsend had asked the chief to answer questions.
Chief Hanson reported that since Jan. 1 of this year, Kansas City, Kan., has had 426 gun crimes, and 23 of those persons were killed, most with a weapon. Ninety-seven persons were shot who survived; 197 persons were threatened with firearms but not shot; 109 incidents resulted in 198 victims of crime where people were shooting into a dwelling; 154 of those victims were adults and 44 were juveniles.
“There are a lot of weapons out there in the hands of people who are more than willing to use them,” Hanson said.
The department’s policy on the use of lethal force is that officers are trained to neutralize the threat. She said that all officers hope they don’t have to use their weapons. She and other police officials went into detail about the definition of justified force.
“They work very hard every day to keep you safe, they work hard every day to connect with the community,” she said.
She said after news reports about the incident in Ferguson, Mo., the police department here reached out to the community to learn what people are thinking, and to work with leaders and residents.
She also reported that the police department has long been involved in community outreach efforts, meeting regularly with groups throughout the community, being involved in community policing, and attending many organization meetings, working with students, as well as meeting with businesses and individuals.
“We’re not doing that in response to Ferguson. We’re doing that because it has always been an important element of making our jobs effective and successful, because without the community we cannot be successful,” she said.