Embattled former Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith is no longer under contract to advise the city of St. Joseph Police Department after the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the KCPD, prompting community concerns with Smith’s qualifications in St. Joseph.
Smith was contracted on Aug. 26 to assess the St. Joseph Police Department’s organizational structure, according to a copy of the agreement provided by the city. The contract was set to run through Oct. 31 at the latest.
As of Wednesday, Smith was no longer contracted by the city, city spokeswoman Mary Robertson told The Star. Initially, The Star was informed Smith had completed his work. However, in a subsequent statement, the city said Smith had completed much of his assessment, but hadn’t yet filed his final report.
Smith retired in April after nearly five years leading KCPD. During his tenure, he faced criticism for his handling of excessive use of force, specifically the killing of Black men by police.
In late September, it was announced the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation of employment practices at the Kansas City Police Department to determine if the department engaged in racial discrimination, specifically discriminating against Black officers and applicants.
The news came after The Star published a series of stories examining allegations of racism and harassment within the police force. The newspaper found that the number of Black officers was lower than it had been decades ago, that Black officers were disproportionately disciplined by KCPD and that over 15 years, at least 18 officers left because of racist treatment.
Drew H. Brown, Sr. treasurer of the local NAACP unit in St. Joseph, about 55 miles north of Kansas City, said he learned about the contract with Smith at an NAACP meeting last Tuesday. Brown, who subscribes to The Star and has kept up with news regarding KCPD and Smith, was upset.
“Frankly I was outraged,” Brown said. “Of all the people in the world, why him? He’s spoiled meat. He’s tainted.”
A spokeswoman for the city manager’s office said Smith’s job referral came from a “contact” within KCPD leadership. The St. Joseph City Council then approved his hiring.
Among the topics Smith was asked to analyze, per the contract, were:
Perception of department’s reputation
What is needed to progress the department
What traits are needed in a new chief of police
“The report shall include recommendations for department improvement and, particularly, recommendations to be employed as chief leadership prepares for a transition from the present chief of police to a future chief of police,” the contract reads.
Robertson, the city spokeswoman, said Smith met with members of the St. Joseph police department and was in the process of meeting the obligations outlined in the contract.
“We had no concerns with the work he was doing and found his input to be valuable,” she told The Star. “After the DOJ announcement was made and community concerns were raised, we jointly agreed to stop the work being done. Much of the work was already done, but a final written report is yet to be submitted.”
Smith’s pay was set at $250 an hour, capped at $25,000. Robertson said they don’t yet know how much he will be paid.
On Monday, the local NAACP sent a letter to city leadership opposing the hire and asking the city to end Smith’s contract, “as a result of many public and documented accounts of bias and discrimination occurring in the [Kansas City Police Department] under the leadership of former Police Chief Rick Smith.”
Robertson in a statement to The Star said the city told the NAACP that Smith was not contracted to directly be part of the search for the new police chief.
“The NAACP is aware that Mr. Smith has completed his assessment and is no longer under contract with the city,” she wrote Wednesday. “The city will be very open and transparent with our community members as the search for the next police chief progresses.”
St. Joseph is searching for a replacement for former Police Chief Chris Connally, who retired on Sept. 30 after 16 years leading the department. Commander Dave Hart is serving as the interim police chief until a permanent replacement is chosen.