KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Star reported on Tuesday that Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith was being forced out of his position after a recent manslaughter conviction of a KCPD officer.
The Star reported that during a meeting on Tuesday with Smith, Mayor Quinton Lucas and a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, Smith was informed that the Board has the votes to remove him. It was also reported that he agreed to a departure date of March 31 “after a compromise was struck” during the meeting.
However, the Star’s story has repeatedly been disputed by sources close to Chief Smith.
Many close to the situation are calling the assertions made in the Star’s article false and intentionally misleading as Smith already had plans to leave in 2022. Upon his appointment to chief in August of 2017, Smith vowed to not hold the office for more than five years, which means he had always planned to resign in 2022 – it’s not a “breaking news” revelation as the Star reported it to be.
According to Nathan Garrett, a former member of the Board of Police Commissioners from 2017 to July of 2021, the Star’s premise that Mayor Lucas has the votes to oust Chief Smith is unequivocally false.
“Chief Smith has the support of the majority of that Board,” Garrett told The Heartlander. “Always has and continues to have. The Board does not have the votes to fire Chief Smith. As the Chief has indicated, since 2017 he has said that he was leaving in 2022 and that was the commitment he gave when we hired him. So, nothing has changed.”
Garrett also refutes the assertion that Smith agreed to leave by March 31, 2022 as part of a “compromise”, as the Star reported.
“It’s going to be in 2022 at a date of his choosing, but there is no vote to force him out or terminate him,” Garrett said. “That is untrue.”
The KCPD itself also seemingly refutes the Star’s assertion that Smith is being “forced out”, according to a statement reported by Peggy Lowe.
“When Chief Smith was hired in August of 2017, he made a commitment to the BOPC that he would stay in this position no more than 5 years,” Lowe quoted KCPD. “As per his commitment, he plans to retire sometime in the upcoming year, 2022. He will announce that date well in advance to ensure a smooth transition for the police department.”
Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar echoed the statements from Garrett, saying Smith won’t be forced out and that the Star’s report of the Board wanting Smith gone is false.
“I think the mayor and some of the more rampant activists were trying to get him to leave, however they have no input in that aside from the mayor’s one vote on the Police Board,” Loar said. “The Chief isn’t going anywhere until he’s ready and he’ll leave on his own terms. His retirement is in August of next year and my guess is that’s when he’ll go. But they’re not going to make him go because they can’t make him go.”
“I think Rick feels the timing will be right when he elects it, but he will elect it,” Garrett said. “It will not be by a vote with the Board. The only way that a chief is forced out, any chief, is by a vote of the Board and for cause – neither of which exist here.”
“Rick Smith has been an excellent Chief of Police and has served this city faithfully. Rick has the support of the majority of the Board of Police Commissioners, then and now. He has been an excellent Chief of Police during extraordinary times.”
What has Chief Smith done since taking office in 2017
Smith is known to be highly respected within the KCPD and even won the 2021 Clarence M. Kelley Award for his admirable leadership. Since being in office, Smith has taken several extra steps to build stronger relationships between KCPD and citizens. He made the decision to assign social workers to all six Patrol Division Stations, making KCPD the first police department in the nation with such a program.
Smith also reinstated the Community Interaction Officer (CIO) position to help further a healthy relationship with the community and assigned two CIOs to each division station. Since 2018, the CIOs have attended almost 3,000 community meetings and events and provided close to 400 training engagements with community members. During the pandemic, the department’s CIO officers and social workers were among those who helped provide over 500,000 meals to those in need in Kansas City.
Among other programs, Chief Smith also oversaw the implementation of the EZ Child ID System after overwhelming concerns from the community about human trafficking. The system is described as “the nation’s most comprehensive digital fingerprinting child identification system” and has proven useful for other departments in numerous lost child cases across the country.
KCPD did not have the proper funding for the program at the time, so Chief Smith directed staff to the appropriate resources and attracted a donation to meet the program’s needs. KCPD now has three EZ Child ID Systems and estimates they have served roughly 250 children and their guardians so far.
“There is no other person I would rather be serving under, in this time and season, than Chief Rick Smith,” CIO Officer Jason Cooley told The Heartlander. “He has the strength, drive and passion to keep our Department moving in the right direction through multiple storms that we have encountered. It has been my utmost honor to be KCPD under his leadership.”