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DOJ investigating Kansas City police's employment practices

Posted at 5:11 PM, Sep 20, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the employment practices of the Kansas City Police Department in Missouri.

Kansas City Interim Police Chief Joseph Mabin said the department was notified of the investigation Monday by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.

"We will cooperate fully with the investigation," Mabin said in a statement. "It is the policy and practice of the Board of Police Commissioners and the Kansas City Police Department to provide a work atmosphere free of actual or perceived discrimination and harassment."

Mabin also said he is committed to ensuring everyone in the department experiences a "safe and fair" work environment and fair treatment during the hiring process.

The city auditor’s office announced last week that it was launching an audit of the police department's hiring practices and diversity.

It’s unclear if the audit and the DOJ’s investigation are connected or will overlap in any way. The city auditor's office told KSHB Monday afternoon that any audit they do can't interfere or conflict with a DOJ investigation.

Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke to reporters Monday afternoon and said he wasn't terribly surprised when the DOJ announced its investigation.

Lucas puts more accountability on the department and the Board of Police Commissioners when it comes to solving these issues.

"I think there's need to be [a] serious discussion," Lucas said, "We cannot keep being responsive time and time again from new lawsuits and new investigations from federal officials."

Lucas also said that the Board of Police Commissioners did not talk about the investigation during their meeting earlier in the morning.

Activist groups who've called for such an investigation say they're happy to hear the news.

"When I got the call, I was shocked and surprised," Pastor Darron Edwards told KSHB.

Edwards and two other pastors sent a letter to the city and the DOJ last summer requesting an investigation. He received confirmation on Monday morning.

"I'm happy because we're at a pivotal point in Kansas City," Edwards said. "We're at a point where we're about to select the top cop for the Kansas City, Missouri police department."

The Board of Police Commissioners is expected to announce the finalists for police chief soon.

Edwards said it's imperative that the chief prioritizes promoting people who reflect the communities they serve.

"Now that we're having maybe some forced transparency and forced accountability, maybe it'll take something forced to get fixed," Edwards said.

The Urban Council, which includes several community groups, sent a letter to the DOJ last year detailing concerns about discrimination against Black officers, who make up a disproportionately low number of employees within the department based on KCPD demographics.

All four of the department's lieutenant colonels are white, including one female, while 12 of the 20 majors and 43 of 51 captains are white, according to department data from July 31.

There are three Black and three Hispanic majors on the police force, including one Black female. The department also lists a mixed-race female major on its rank/title and ethnic distribution chart.

Thirty-seven of the police department's 51 captains, or 72.5%, are white men. There are only three Black police captains in the department.

Overall, 59 of the 76 members of the police department's senior command staff — 51 men and eight women — are white, or nearly 78% of the department’s leadership in a city where only 60% of the population is white, according to the latest Census.

Nearly one-third of the city's population is Black (27.7%) or mixed race (4.8%), but the department’s civilian and non-civilian ranks don’t reflect that diversity.

Only 16.1% of the department's employees — civilian, departmental leadership and rank-and-file — are Black, including 8.2% men and 7.9% women.

Jack Anstine and Tod Palmer at KSHB first reported this story.