KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The civilian board that oversees the Kansas City Police Department went into a closed session on Tuesday after civil rights activists repeatedly called for a public vote on whether to fire the city's police chief.
It was the latest salvo in a months-long effort by civil rights activists to force Chief Rick Smith to resign or be fired over the police department's handling of excessive force complaints and fatal shootings of Black men by officers.
After several people spoke about Smith, board president Don Wagner decided to close the meeting to the public. That led the Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, to stand and yell for the board to vote on Smith, The Kansas City Star reported.
The board, which is comprised of four members of the public and the mayor, then met in a closed session before reconvening briefly and then adjourning.
“The gallery became too disruptive to continue business,” police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said. “We constantly weigh the balance of allowing and respecting and promoting people’s First Amendment (rights) with also conducting business."
When the board reconvened, Mayor Quinton Lucas called the activists' actions “a personal insult” that were "totally uncalled for, but I am used to that. But hopefully we will get to a place where we can try to do better for the safety of our community long term.”
Lucas, who has also been strongly criticized by many civil rights activists, said he and Smith are always willing to meet with community groups and their leaders.
Smith has said repeatedly that he won't resign. Lucas and several police board members have publicly supported him.
Howard said the group plans to attend the police board meetings every month until a decision is made on Smith's employment.
"We can no longer allow business as usual,” Howard said afterward. “We will not betray the fallen victims of KCPD violence, brutality, and racism.”
“We will defend their civil rights, their humanity, and their equal protections under the law. And that starts with the dismissal of the chief who is the protector and sustainer of the oppression.”