A professor points to a controversial case involving a pregnant woman that cost two Kansas City police officers their jobs as a significant factor for the recent uptick in black murder victims.
Ernest Evans, who teaches political science at the KCK Community College, says race and fear are underpinnings for why the number of black homicide victims in Kansas City is soaring while the homicide rates for everyone else remains relatively flat. And he blames the Kansas City Board of Commissioners who moved to fire the two officers in 2008 for their role in failing to call an ambulance for a woman suffering a miscarriage.
He says police officers go soft on black suspects in black neighborhoods because they fear being called racists. He says the theory is "de-policing."
Evans knows his theory is controversial and will be offensive to some.
"I really do sense that the men and women of the KCPD feel that, if accused of racism, it's all over for them," he said. "I call it a tale of two cities. In other cities where police officers do feel they'll get fair treatment, there's a much higher clearance rate, meaning there's deterrence. People know they are going to get caught."
In 2006, two Kansas City police officers stopped Sofia Salva for having fake car tags. She was en route to a hospital because she was bleeding and having pains. The officers refused to call an ambulance after she said she was having a miscarriage. Her cries for help also went unheeded in the city jail where she ultimately miscarried her baby.
The case remained hidden for a year until Salva sued. After Salva filed her lawsuit in 2007, the two officers were suspended and later fired. The city reached a $750,000 settlement with Salva in 2008 and the two officers lost their attempts to get the courts to overturn their termination.
Evans maintains that Kansas City police officers are now more cautious because of the Salva case and other high-profile cases involving race, such as the recent Waldo rapist case.
"It's not like they abandon the neighborhoods and stop patrolling. More that they become very cautious," the professor said. "They don't interview people they might suspect because they're afraid they'll be accused of profiling."
Evans points to statistics showing that before the Salva case that over the past 15 years that on average about 42 murder victims were black each year. However, that soared to 57 black victims after the Salva case.
The Kansas City Police Department leadership would not comment for this story. Instead, they said the department stands behind the integrity and work ethics of its employees.
Alvin Brooks, a current member of the Kansas City Police Board of Commissioners, doesn't accept Evans' theory. He said the lack of a quality education is a principal reason why so many black men and boys become murder victims in Kansas City.
"If you want to reduce poverty, crime and violence, then you educate your population," said Brooks, who served as mayor pro tem when the Salva case broke and is a former Kansas City police detective.
Brooks says Evans is "over thinking" how African-American criminals "think." He says too many don't fear getting caught.
"The system has treated us like nothing and so you act like nothing and you don't over time respect life," he said.
Evans also doesn't understand police officers, Brooks says.
"There's so many factors. And you cannot simplify it by saying that the police, when these incidents happen, are not doing their jobs," Brooks said.
But the professor is sticking to his de-policing theory. He says honest people living in the inner city are paying the price.
"The big loser from the cynical exploitation of the Salva case has been the black neighborhoods of Kansas City, Missouri," Evans said. I think what we really need is some honest discussion in the city about the problems that police officers have policing black neighborhoods."
To read Evans' de-policing theory, click here. To see a graphic depicting the homicide rate, click here.
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