Groups still want Kansas City police chief to be ousted

June 6, 2020 GMT
Demonstrators march up Main Street in Kansas City, Mo. Thursday, June 4, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Demonstrators march up Main Street in Kansas City, Mo. Thursday, June 4, 2020, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three civil rights organizations say they will continue to pressure Kansas City police Chief Rick Smith to resign over long-simmering tension between police and minorities in the city, despite procedural changes announced this week.

The Kansas City chapter of the NAACP, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and More2 issued a statement Wednesday calling for Smith’s resignation because of his handling of excessive force complaints and police actions during recent protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Mayor Quinton Lucas on Thursday announced several changes to police procedures designed to improve accountability and oversight of the Police Department, including having outside agencies investigate all officer-involved shootings.

The Rev. Dr. Rodney Williams, president of the Kansas City chapter of the NAACP, said Friday that the proposed changes are appreciated but that the coalition wants to see entirely new police leadership, beginning with Smith’s resignation.

“(The changes) are hopeful but we need to see them actually become reality,” Williams said. “This is not just about the protests, this goes much further. We do not believe police are protecting the constitutional rights of African Americans and the head of that agency needs to resign.”

Smith has said he doesn’t intend to resign and Lucas said Thursday that Smith will remain as police chief. Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police, called the requests for Smith’s resignation “ridiculous.”

The tension comes after a week of protests over the death of Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes even after he stopped movign and pleading for air.

During the first days of protests, violence erupted after dark. Police used tear gas and made several arrests. The protests have been relatively calm since Tuesday, when police changed tactics to “de-escalate” the tension.

The calm continued Friday, when several hundred people gathered in downtown Kansas City to hear speeches and demonstrate in front of City Hall, the Police Department and the Jackson County Courthouse — a change of scene from earlier protests at the Country Club Plaza and Westport entertainment districts.

In St. Louis, Mayor Lyda Krewson extended the city’s curfew through Sunday, as more than a half-dozen different rallies and demonstrations were held Friday in the region. Among them was one outside the Barnes-Jewish Hospital complex in which hundreds of doctors, medical students and others participated, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Krewson said during a news briefing that the curfew is “certainly not to punish protesters” but added that “protest leaders that I have spoken with also don’t want to see the violence that occurred on Monday evening,” when people broke into many downtown buildings and stole items and burned a 7-Eleven.