Embattled Kansas City police chief says he’ll retire in 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The embattled Kansas City police chief announced Tuesday that he is retiring just four days after a white officer on the force was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting of a Black man.

Chief Rick Smith, who has faced repeated calls to resign, will retire in 2022, Capt. Leslie Foreman, a spokeswoman for the department said in a statement. She said Smith made a commitment to stay in the position no more than five years when he was hired in August 2017.

The Kansas City Star reports that the announcement followed a City Hall meeting earlier in the day with Smith, Mayor Quinton Lucas and the Board of Police Commissioners’ president, Mark Tolbert. The mayor’s office provided no details about the meeting.

“Mayor Lucas will not discuss personnel matters in the press,” spokeswoman Morgan Said wrote in a text to The Associated Press. “He appreciates all the dedicated women and men of the Kansas City Police Department.”

The meeting came after a Jackson County judge on Friday found Det. Eric DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2019 shooting death of Cameron Lamb.

Many community members have long called for Smith’s departure, citing the fatal shootings of Lamb and other Black men by police, a tenuous relationship with the community which worsened last year during protests and an alarming number of homicides. Last year, the city had a record 182 killings.

The police department also has paid out more than $5.8 million in claims over the past fiscal year, blowing past what was budgeted.

Several groups also have requested a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. And the relationship between Smith and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has also hit turbulent spots, fueled in part by the police department’s refusal to hand over charging documents in at least four cases involving officers.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office has charged five officers. That includes the DeValkenaere case in which prosecutors alleged police had planted evidence. Mike Mansur, a spokesman for Peters Baker, declined to comment about the resignation announcement.

Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a social justice organization, said Smith has failed to hold his officers accountable.

“We need a police chief who believes that it’s her or his job to investigate all shootings, regardless of who pulled the trigger and to follow facts and evidence,” she said. “We are hopeful that new leadership means improved outcomes for the entire community.”

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