Last night I met a recently retired high-ranking officer in the KCPD named George Roberts. A videographer and I were working on short videos of folks who support Mark Funkhouser for mayor. He really impressed me.
For his little testimonial video, George talked not about more cops on the street or more jail space. Instead, he talked about broken sidewalks on Kansas City's East Side. He talked about a community that has essentially been abandoned by City Hall, and how that has more to do with the murder rate than the number of cops patrolling the street.
Kinda blew me away. Here's this white guy. Lives north of the river. Combs his hair straight back. Ordinarily my prejudice would pin him as one who could give a shit about the folks who live around Central High.
But he just cut to the chase and laid out a real progressive rap.
Then he got to talking about the current chief of police. Jim Corwin is a total reformer, according to George. Another real progressive.
I was aware that Chief Corwin has a Blue Print for the Future. But I haven't read it and I don't really know what it entails.
But my ears perked up when George told me Corwin brought in a psychologist to assess the difficulties they'd face as the department undergoes a fairly radical transformation.
Then George started talking about how Corwin is catching all kinds of heat for thestuff they're doing at a neighborhood police station on the Westside. The area has long been home to KC's Latino community. And in recent years one particular corner in the area has become a spot where recent immigrants hang out looking for work. It's been a strain on the community, so Corwin and the neighborhood cops have started providing services for these folks -- showers, laundry, etc. George told me the neighborhood leaders are happy with the arrangement. But xenophobes in Jeff City are outraged because Corwin isn't locking the folks up and reporting them to INS -- those who've immigrated here illegally, that is.
What surprised me about all this was not that KC apparently has a good police chief, which is kind of surprising, frankly. But that I'd never heard any of this.
How is it that there's a major reform effort going on in our police department, and the local papers aren't all over it?
I mean, the psychologist thing alone is worth a story, doncha think?
(Or did I miss it? I know I have trouble catching all the important stories on the Star's jumbled website.)