Kansas City police chief to retire following conviction of officer for shooting Black man

Campaigners had called for Rick Smith to stand down since the 2019 shooting

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 24 November 2021 15:23
<p> Kansas City police Chief Rick Smith </p>

Kansas City police Chief Rick Smith

The chief of Kansas City’s police department has announced his retirement after years of anger at the shooting of a Black man in 2019, and calls for his resignation.

The department confirmed on Tuesday that Rick Smith, who was appointed chief of the Kansas City Police Department in 2017, will retire in 2022.

The confirmation of his retirement came four days after a former Kansas City officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of Cameron Lamb, a Black man, in 2019.

The incident ignited calls from campaigners and community leaders for Mr Smith to resign, which were energised by demonstrations against police brutality and institutional racism in 2020.

It also followed a meeting of Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas and a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, who told the Kansas City Star on Tuesday that it had the votes to terminate Mr Smith.

Leslie Foreman, a spokeswoman for the police department, said in a statement that Mr Smith had committed himself to a maximum of five years back in 2017.

The comments suggested his retirement was not connected to the former officer’s conviction or calls for his resignation.

“As per his commitment, he plans to retire sometime in the upcoming year,” Ms Foreman reportedly said, adding that Mr Smith “will announce that date well in advance to ensure a smooth transition for the police department.”

The police chief will reportedly retire on 31 March 2020, although that remains unconfirmed, according to the Kansas City Star

It added that his tenure as police chief has accounted for a record number of murders in Kansas City, with 184 alone in 2020, and 600 during his time as head of the force.

The Kansas City Police Department has also been hit by budget concerns, amid claims in 2020 amounting to more than $5.8m (£4.3m), and calls from campaign groups for a US Department of Justice investigation.

The executive director of MORE2, a social justice organisation in Kansas City, said Mr Smith had failed to hold his department accountable.

“We need a police chief who believes that it’s her or his job to investigate all shootings, regardless of who pulled the trigger and to follow facts and evidence,” said Lora McDonald.

“We are hopeful that new leadership means improved outcomes for the entire community.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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