Kansas City police board narrows list of candidates for next chief, plans interviews

Jill Toyoshiba/jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners has selected a group of semifinalists who are being considered for the city’s next police chief, the board announced Friday.

In a statement, board president Mark Tolbert did not disclose how many semifinalists there are and did not release their names. Tolbert noted that the board used an executive search firm to help the board with the selection process.

“After the conclusion of the search, the members of the BOPC reviewed the twenty-one applicants with the search consultant and after deliberating reduced the pool to a reasonable number to interview,” Tolbert said in a written statement. “The BOPC is thankful to have had so many qualified candidates apply for the position.”

In October, the police board will meet with the semifinalists to discuss their qualifications and experiences. That number will then be further reduced. From there, the board will provide the public with additional information about its selection process, Tolbert said.

The selection of a new chief comes as the Department of Justice has opened an investigation to determine whether the Kansas City Police Department used racist practices in its hiring, promotion and treatment of Black officers.

Former chief Rick Smith retired in April after nearly five years as chief. During his tenure, he faced criticism for his handling of excessive use of force, specifically the killing of Black men by police.

Since April, the department has been led by Interim Police Chief Joseph Mabin, who told board members that he would not apply for the permanent job.

In the summer, the board hired Public Sector Search & Consultants, a California-based company to conduct a nationwide search for a new chief. The company, headed by Gary Peterson, was the only executive search to submit a bid to help identify a slate of candidates.

Peterson had previously worked for a different search firm that helped the board decide in 2017 to hire Smith as the city’s 45th police chief.

Missouri law requires that the city’s police chief is appointed and serves at the pleasure of the five-member board of police commissioners; four of its members are appointed by the governor.

State law sets the police chief’s salary pay at no more than $189,700 annually.

The next chief will lead a police department at a time when the city has again experienced a growing number of homicides, non-fatal shootings and street violence.

In a series of public forums, Kansas City residents said they want the next police chief to be more transparent, focus on building community trust, reduce homicides and have a clear crime-fighting strategy.