As Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith faces renewed pressure to leave his post, the city’s top cop participated in a community meeting Wednesday night that focused on challenges of the police department with regard to staffing.
In the town hall, the chief discussed what he described as an unprecedented departure of personnel leaving law enforcement unseen during his time on the force. He described the obstacle of covering the city with enough officers to answer calls for service as difficult as the department’s number of sworn officers stands about 200 below the desired level.
Unaddressed during the 90-minute town hall were the recent push for him to retire or controversial comments that surfaced this week regarding the fatal police shooting of Cameron Lamb.
Last week, The Star reported that Smith was being pressured to retire by the Kansas City Police Board of Commissioners. The chief has confirmed that he will retire sometime next year but has cast the decision as one he made personally.
The Star also reported an audio clip that captured Smith referring to Lamb as a “bad guy” minutes after Lamb was fatally shot by Eric Devalkenaere, a former detective who has since been convicted of manslaughter and placed on unpaid suspension.
The clip was obtained by The Star through a public records request. A source close to the investigation confirmed the voice heard on the tape was Smith’s.
Those comments were met with outcry from community leaders and Lamb’s family. Critics contend the remark illustrates a problem in Kansas City policing where department leadership is unwilling to question officers’ actions or punish them for wrongdoing.
The town hall was organized by Stacey Johnson-Cosby of KC Regional Housing Alliance. It was held in the South Patrol station and broadcast over Zoom.