Community members, city officials clash over race relations at p - KCTV5 News

Community members, city officials clash over race relations at police board meeting

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Concerned community members and top city officials clashed at a police board meeting Tuesday over race relations in Kansas City. (KCTV) Concerned community members and top city officials clashed at a police board meeting Tuesday over race relations in Kansas City. (KCTV)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The relationship between the Kansas City Police Department and parts of the community led to some angry exchanges at Tuesday morning's police board meeting. Into the evening, protesters planned to continue to press their case at Theis Park.

One of the biggest issues among protesters is the case of Ryan Stokes, an unarmed black man shot and killed by a KCPD officer three years ago this week. 

Members of the group fighting for justice for Stokes and other appeared before a KCPD board meeting and during the public comments period, they publicly criticized Mayor Sly James and Chief of Police Darryl Forte.

The board meeting started quietly until Forte opened the forum up to the public by stressing the importance of dialogue.

"We have to go out there and reach out. We don't understand the community we police," he said.

A coalition of racial justice groups in Kansas City demanded answers to lingering questions in the police shooting of Stokes.

"We believe very strongly that the shooting of Mr. Stokes was unjustified," a lawyer in attendance said.

They demanded specific data regarding complaints against police and details about the civil suit brought forth by Stokes' family.

"Transparency is very simple," said a woman who goes by "Ms. Justice" with One Struggle KC. "And if this board doesn't get it and our chief doesn't get it, we have a problem."

The meeting grew heated as the mayor responded.

"We can't talk about this the way you want us to talk about it," James said.

James and Forte both pointed out they had personally experienced racism.

"I've been profiled. I've been stopped. I've had all the other things. I understand that," James said.

In response, Ms. Justice said, "That happens to you. What do you think happens to my husband or my children or my cousins who deal with these officers and they don't have that blue uniform on or that shield?" 

Forte and the mayor started to fire back at the comments.

"Nothing I say is going to be good enough," Forte said.

The situation escalated as speakers continued to press the city, wanting to know why Officer Thompson received commendation for the shooting of Stokes.

"We don't even know you're coming. You show up and you say what you got to say and you demand immediate answers," James said.

After a few tense moments, the room calmed. The group continued to ask questions the city could not answer.

"If the board is our outlet to control the police, what is the board doing?" a community member said. 

James and the board highlighted a few of the programs KCPD is already implementing to improve police relations in Kansas City. The mayor says police already receive training on how to avoid racial profiling. However, they would not comment on the pending civil suit between Stokes and the city.

KCTV5 reached out to Forte for a one-on-one interview Tuesday afternoon and he declined. A police spokesperson told KCTV5 the chief has repeatedly reached out to One Struggle KC to no avail. 

Copyright 2016 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. 

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