Unified Government commissioners each asked a question of the four candidates for police chief at the 5 p.m. UG Commission meeting April 15.
The meeting was part of the selection process for the Kansas City, Kansas, police chief candidates, UG Administrator Doug Bach explained. Bach is to make the selection of the police chief after receiving community and commission responses. An advisory committee is giving its opinions on the candidates. A community survey also was conducted on the qualities residents wanted to see in candidates.
Bach said the candidates will be interviewed more on Friday, and more background checks will be conducted. Bach said he would meet with commissioners one at a time to get their opinions, and he is expected to receive more opinions from an advisory committee. The expected hiring date is in May.
At the end of the meeting UG Commissioner Christian Ramirez requested another meeting so the UG commissioners could discuss the finalists and possibly present a unified commission recommendation to the administrator. Commissioner Ramirez said it was imperative, especially during a time of social and racial injustice, to see the governing body working together with the administration to find a chief that fits the community. Commissioner Mike Kane agreed.
Mayor David Alvey, however, said procedures for the selection have already been set, and the commissioners would talk to Bach individually to provide their opinions.
Commissioner Kane said that with some recent news stories about the police department, it would be important that the commission be involved more in the selection. Mayor Alvey, who is running for re-election, added he would take it under advisement, and if so, they might convene a special executive session.
The police chief selection process here has taken more than a year, and there were originally 19 applicants, according to a UG spokesman. The applicants were narrowed down to the final four.
Commissioner Harold Johnson asked the candidates what strategies they would use to increase the diversity of the police force in recruitment and in promotion.
Pamela Waldeck, the current deputy chief of police in Kansas City, Kansas, said the department started a year ago with minority officers assisting in the recruiting. They made a video with African American officers speaking directly to the African American community in trying to recruit more officers, she said. They also reached out to community organizations and went into neighborhoods to recruit, she added.
Waldeck, who has been with the police department since 1997, said she would like to implement a full-time recruiting staff, as those who are recruiting now are on temporary assignments. Two full-time recruiting officers could visit local high schools and colleges and have conversations with potential recruits, she said. They also could meet with church groups and organizations to build relationships, she added.
Vince Davenport, who was with the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department 25 years before going to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, where he is the associate deputy director, said he would start by bringing adequate diverse representation to the table and crafting a written strategic plan.
The chief needs to put out a call to serve countywide, even challenging people at different workplaces to consider changing careers, Davenport said. He also said it would be important to work together with young people as well as the Black police officers’ association and the Latino officers’ association in crafting the plan.
Karl Oakman, deputy chief of the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, where he has been a member for 29 years, said he worked with that department on recruiting around 20 years ago, creating an open testing concept. They made the recruiting process easy, and all the candidates had to do was show up at a classroom with their driver’s license and take a test, he said. When they passed the test, then they could work on getting the other necessary documents, he added. Oakman said this removed a hurdle early in the process, and they had some of the largest participation ever in a test. That year they had the largest minority participation in the academy, he added.
He also said they looked at the process to eliminate other hurdles. For example, some people cannot wait eight months to a year to get hired, so he looked at the process to find out how to reduce the time while maintaining the requirements to be an officer, Oakman said. He said they also successfully recruited police officers at historically Black colleges. Oakman also said he had an eight-point objective plan for KCK, including an innovative strategy to recruit and train a diverse work force.
Rich Austin, chief of police of Milton, Georgia, said diverse teams are stronger and police departments should be reflective of the communities they serve. A lot of agencies want to cast a wide net to get people in the door, but that’s not the best way to go about it, he said.
Austin said everyone in the police department should be a recruiter, on the lookout in their own community for people who could become community police officers, people they would want to work with and who have high integrity. While they would still need a centralized recruiting officer to go to job fairs and process applications, he believes the best strategy is for all officers to become recruiters.
Commissioner Ramirez’s question was about how the chief would handle immigration, and Commissioner Kane asked about how they work with the union. To hear more of the candidates’ responses on the questions, see the meeting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUlF684F6HI.