Forums keep families of victims in touch with police

Chief Forté.

While the number of homicides in Kansas City is not declining, progress is being made in city-police cooperation and in innovative approaches, police board and city council members said last week.

They cited a recent forum – the first of its kind – that brought together family members of 89 of this year’s homicide victims with detectives and advocacy groups.

“I think we’ve made huge strides in the last year,” Mayor Sly James said at a meeting of the council’s public safety committee attended by many police board commissioners.

James, who is also on the police board, credited the first year of work by Police Chief Darryl Forté with improving police relations with the city and community.

Forté has targeted violent crime, for a time even going to each homicide scene himself, officials said. He has also worked to enhance witness cooperation, especially in east side neighborhoods.

While the homicide count last Wednesday stood at 89, one more than at the same time in the last two years, his efforts should not be judged a failure, council members said.

Forte said later in his blog that there will be more events like Tuesday’s forum that brought more than 200 family members and loved ones.

Police sent out personal invitations and the AdHoc Group Against Crime also contacted family members from homicide victims of previous years, he said.

A video memorial to victims began the evening followed by speeches by James, Forte and advocacy group spokes people. Later, those attending met individually with detectives and advocates.

Forté said, “The turn-out was more than we expected and demonstrates to me the community is eager to work with us to reduce violent crime.”

At the council committee meeting, police board member Alvin Brooks, a former councilman and former police officer, said such a meeting and other efforts by police are vast changes from some past years when police did not stress action in the community or cooperation with city hall.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’re moving forward.”

James said progress will not appear over night.

“The patient has been sick for decades in terms of race relations in this city,” James said. “The chief is trying to turn things around . . . .”

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