Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté understands the delicate balance between the thin blue line that he swore to uphold and the struggles of being a black man in a society that may view him as a dangerous threat, the Kansas City Star reports. More than 30 years ago, shortly before he entered the police academy, Forté was pulled over and made to empty his trunk by white police officers for no discernible reason, he said. As he sought the chief’s job five years ago, a frightening note left in his mailbox so unnerved him that he had his wife and a daughter learn how to shoot a gun. Once he got the job, he was harassed. “I have experienced racial profiling, I have experienced bullying as a member of this police department,” he says. Forté, the city’s first African-American police chief, has been lauded for his calming and consistent presence in keeping his city’s peace.
Forté has drawn criticism from police union officials, who complained when Forté said some police shootings of black men were driven by “unreasonable fear” and poor training. Forté, 54, is reshaping how street cops interact with those they serve. He has recruited more minority police officers, engaged the community, and trained officers to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to avoid police shootings, called “de-escalation and disengagement.” Mayor Sly James said, “He was … the very first police chief that I heard talk about de-escalation and disengagement as a real strategy for dealing with things. Now it’s all the rage, but he was talking about that two years ago.” During Forté’s five-year tenure, Kansas City police have killed 18 persons — down from the 25 fatal police shootings during the previous five years. Over the past two years, Kansas City has experienced a 37 percent spike in homicides. Homicides have increased again this year.