As violence increases, new citizen group to seek answers

task-forceWith homicides and shootings up this year, Mayor Sly James on Wednesday appointed a citizen task force to study violence and find ways to combat it.

The Royals are world champs and the city has won national praise for tech work and more, he said, but “none of these great accomplishments really means anything if people don’t feel safe in this city.”

Last year there were 81 homicides, the lowest number in four decades. But there have been 90 so far this year and Kansas City on a per capita basis remains among the nation’s most violent cities.

“Why are we killing?,” James asked. “Can we stop it? What do we need to do?”

Fourth District Councilwoman Jolie Justus, a former two-term state senator, will chair the task force with vice chair Andres Dominguez of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

While in Jefferson City, Justus led a three-year effort that rewrote the state’s criminal laws. Dominguez is a former senior program manager at the Ewing Kauffman Foundation whose interests include the safety net and social determinations of health.

The group will meet for a year and release a report on pragmatic needed changes in things like laws, procedures and protocols, the mayor said.

They are to hear from many experts, study approaches elsewhere and shape changes.

Justus said they will look at things that include gun safety, mental health, poverty and more to shape what is known and make things better.

She and James said they do not intend for this to be another study that sits on a shelf.

“It’s a huge issue and we’re going to tackle it,” James said of the violence. “If we miss this tackle, we’ll try another one.”

Other members of the task force cover a wide range of disciplines. They are:

  • Deidre Anderson, Executive Director, United Inner City Services.
  • Charles Atwell, attorney with Foland Wickens, P.C., and a former Jackson County Circuit Court Judge.
  • Charles Caisley, Vice President, Marketing & Public Affairs, Kansas City Power & Light.
  • Alissia Canady, Fifth District City Councilwoman.
  • Jose Faus, Artist, Writer and Educator.
  • Tina Harris, Pastor, Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church.
  • Jill M. Katz, Attorney.
  • Jonathan Kemper, Vice Chairman, Commerce Bancshares Inc.
  • Rodney Knott, CEO, ReEngage Staffing Services.
  • Allan Markley, Superintendent, Raytown Quality Schools.
  • Nancy Olivares, Attorney.
  • J. Pierre, Assistant City Prosecutor, City of Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Judy Sherry, President-Owner, Judy Sherry Consortium, Advertising & Marketing.
  • Rosilyn Temple, Founder and Executive Director, Kansas City Chapter, Mothers in Charge Inc.
  • Wick Thomas, Teen Services Librarian, Kansas City Public Library.
  • Crystal Williams, Jackson County Legislator.



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