A flash flood watch continues until 4 p.m. June 6 as heavy rain moved through Wyandotte County this morning.
Showers and storms are expected to weaken by mid to late morning. Another round of thunderstorms is expected to materialize across the region late this afternoon into the evening, according to the National Weather Service.
A few strong storms may be possible, with gusty winds, small hail, and very heavy rainfall the primary concern, the weather service said.
Wyandotte County has a 30 percent chance of showers and storms today, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding is possible because the ground is already saturated.
Today’s high will be near 81. Tonight’s low will be around 67, according to the weather service.
Saturday, there will be a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 1 p.m., according to the weather service. The high will be 83.
Sunday, there is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, with a high near 87, according to the weather service.
Sunday night’s low will be around 67, and there is a 50 percenet chance of showers and thunderstorms, according to the weather service.
Monday, look for a high near 82.
A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms returns on Tuesday, the weather service said.
Recommendations to increase diversity on the Fire, Police and Sheriff’s departments were approved tonight by the Unified Government Commission.
“Our community has high expectations,” Mayor Mark Holland said at the UG meeting. Wyandotte County has the second highest level of diversity in the nation, he said, with three groups – Anglo, African-American and Hispanic groups – each representing more than 25 percent of the population.
“It brings with it an opportunity and an expectation in our community that our Unified Government as well as all of our departments are representative of that diversity,” Mayor Holland said. “The gender diversity in our departments is very important as well.”
He said he saw troubling numbers and was looking for a “smoking gun,” a practice that could be fixed and everything would be fine. Instead, he found there was no “smoking gun” with something discriminatory being done, he said.
While he saw no discriminatory practices in the hiring process, he saw a recruitment pool that did not reflect the diversity of the community, he said. When the recruitment pool did not reflect the diversity of the community, then the hiring did not reflect the diversity, either. Most of the recommendations are rooted in the recruitment component of it, he said.
The mayor said this effort to increase diversity all started with a number of commissioners who approached him in the fall of 2013 and said that something must be done about diversity in public safety. This took place after a fire recruit graduation where there were no blacks and one woman in the class.
Commission discussion centers on time to evaluate recommendations and to work on the details and funding
The Mayor’s Public Safety Task Force recommendations were approved tonight on a 7-1 vote, with Commissioner Mike Kane voting no. The recommendations were approved pending budget authority this summer. The recommendations were the result of several months of planning starting in January 2014, and task force meetings from December to May.
Commissioner Kane asked for more time to look at the recommendations, which the commission received a few days ago and saw a presentation for the first time tonight.
“I don’t know how we make a decision in such a short order that is of this magnitude,” Commissioner Kane said.
Commissioner Gayle Townsend said, “I think we’ve had ample time to consider these recommendations when they were in progress.” Commissioners were able to appoint a delegate to the task force, and Townsend said she kept up with what was going on with the task force through her delegate.
“I think it’s essential for these to be passed and that we move forward,” Townsend said.
Even though the mayor had mentioned earlier that there was no “smoking gun” to account for the under-representation of minorities and women in public service positions, there certainly were some barriers and some practices that have accounted for the uneven and unequal hiring and promotion of minorities and women, Townsend said.
“These recommendations would be a good starting point at moving away from those and correcting them in balance,” Townsend said.
More people with more access to these jobs help stabilize the community economically, she said. It also lessens the likelihood of tensions and confrontations between certain segments of the community that go from confrontations to conflagrations as has been seen in other parts of the country where emotions become inflamed, and then cities burn, she said. “We don’t want to do that,” Townsend said.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he 100 percent supported the intent of these recommendations, but he could see there was a lot more work to do to put them into operation and to fund them. He said he had questions on almost every single recommendation point that should be answered.
“We need as a community to take proactive action,” Commissioner Harold Johnson said. “I believe that our richly diverse community deserves and wants to see results now.”
He advocated putting markers in place to make sure there is progress in these areas.
“It should not take another 10 years for us to begin to see progress from all the groups that are involved and all the people that are affected by this,” Johnson said.
Banks: ‘An opportunity to make a new future for young people’
The Rev. Jimmie Banks, chairperson of the task force, said, “In the changing demographic reality that we see today, we cannot maintain the status quo relative to the makeup of those departments as they are now. It just isn’t feasible.”
It is an opportunity today to make a new future for young people who want to make a career of being a firefighter, police or sheriff’s officer, Banks said.
“We are well on track of being ahead of problem situations that have erupted in other cities,” Banks said. “When they took an opportunity to look at their data, they found they were woefully lacking, and had they taken some actions previous, they might have mitigated or even eliminated some of the tragedy or violence.”
Two other members of the leadership team of the task force, former Commissioner Bill Miller and David Smith, also made presentations of the task force recommendations.
Commissioners Ann Murguia and Angela Markley were not present at the meeting.
With a stronger financial position expected next year, the UG may be funding cadet programs.
When asked after the meeting, Fire Chief John P. Jones said “that’s something we’re glad to have back.” The department has made some improvements to it, and it has been ready to go for some time. The cadet program is a really good way to have an effect on diversity, he said.
He said the Fire Department now has established, through a private vendor, a minority scholarship program for the EMT program at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Lowering the age from 21 to 19 for firefighters is a major change that was recommended. Chief Jones said he wants to hire the best students coming out of high school. Firefighting requires a lot of skills in different areas, he said.
“It’s more of a calling than a job,” he said. EMT certification can be obtained in one semester, and now the Fire Department will be able to hire an applicant first and then send them to training later.
40 years in the making and the ‘elephant in the room’
Alvin Sykes, a human rights activist in Kansas City, Kan., who served on the task force, said after the meeting that he was pleased that the task force recommendations moved forward tonight, and he sees it as a good step.
“It exceeded my expectations,” he said. It wouldn’t have happened in the last 40 years unless the mayor of the city had said to do it, he added. While there have been some issues where he disagreed with the mayor, he stands with him on this issue, Sykes said.
“For me, this is 40 years in the making,” Sykes said. He can remember advocating for more diversity in hiring as long ago as the Jack Reardon administration. (Forty-five years ago, Kansas City, Kan., had its first black police chief, Boston Daniels.)
Sykes said he would have liked to see the recruitment of management-level candidates from out of town as one of the recommendations. This was one of the topics that the task force discussed but was not one of the final recommendations.
As an example, he cited former interim Police Chief Ellen Hanson’s appointment. The Police Department may not have been able to have a woman in the top post unless it brought someone in from outside the department.
Sykes said people appointed from outside the departments may be able to break through the internal working cultures of the departments.
While he supported the changes for the cadet programs, hiring and promotions, Sykes said that they may not be able to see a lot of results, especially near the top levels, for quite a while.
The “elephant in the room,” Sykes said, is why would someone want to become a police officer or firefighter. There are issues that have deterred minorities in the past from joining the departments.
He said it would be a good idea for these departments and for the leaders to review the Department of Justice report about Ferguson, Mo., and also other DOJ reports and use methodologies from the reports for self-evaluation to see if they could do better.
Key changes in the recommendations
Some of the key changes that the recommendations would make include implementing cadet programs in the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s departments.
Also, the age would be reduced for the Fire Department from 21 to 19 under one of the proposed changes. Another recommendation is to allow legal permanent residents to apply for the Fire Department.
The emergency medical technician certification would be eliminated as a requirement for hiring in the Fire Department. Instead, employees would be hired first and then provided with a path to receive their EMT certification, under the proposed change.
Other provisions of the task force’s recommendations
Other recommendations that were adopted tonight:
Recommendations for recruitment also include: publicly posting all disqualifiers; an increase in the 2015-2016 proposed budget for recruitment; to make recruitment efforts year-round, to have dedicated recruiters chosen by chiefs and sheriff; to produce recruiting literature, dated, online and in print; enhanced web and technical support for human resources; and increase partnerships with all school districts and the community colleges in Wyandotte County.
Under hiring, the task force recommends human resources-driven hiring throughout public safety. It recommends smaller academy classes for public safety; validate testing standards, psychological, physical agility, written, CVSA; provide voluntary orientation for agility training; and enhanced web and technical support for human resources.
Also, it recommends establishing a physical agility test for the Sheriff’s Department.
Applicants who receive a conditional offer for employment would get a signed release of explanation if the offer of employment is withdrawn, under these recommendations.
The task force also recommends human resources driven promotions.
The contract language would be removed that drives testing dates; human resources would have oversight for all promotional testing; and physical agility exams would be reviewed for validation.
Also recommended is an internal pathway to paramedics certification.
Long-term oversight recommendations are to provide
– Ongoing training on ethnic, general, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered sensitivity;
– The Human Relations Commission or other agency would be responsible for accountability, transparency, disallow nepotism and patronage, and monitor and validate testing.
– Increase public safety presence in all Wyandotte County schools.
The complete recommendations can be found in the UG agenda for June 4, online at www.wycokck.org.
To see some previous stories about the public safety task force, visit: