On Sunday, July 10, hundreds of people of different races, denominations and economic status, came together and filled the Kansas City East Patrol Campus gymnasium at 26th and Paseo Boulevard. The standing-room-only crowd was unified in passionate and heartfelt prayer.
The prayer event was organized by the Citywide Prayer Movement, Elevate KC, Concerned Clergy Coalition and Baptist Ministers Union. The gathering was one of several grassroots events across the area and joined hundreds nationwide coming just days after the tragic deaths of five police officers in Dallas.
A week later−on Sunday, July 17−three police officers were tragically shot in Baton Rouge, LA. The gunman, Gavin Long, was a former Marine and shot the officer in an ambush-style shooting before he was shot in a gun battle with police. Long was resident of Kansas City.
Sadly, the Kansas City connection to police shootings continued two days later on July 19, when Captain Robert D. Melton of the Kansas City, Kan. PD was gunned down in the line of duty.
After weeks of violence across the county, from the June 12 ISIS-inspired night club shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead to police shootings throughout the nation, many have sought opportunities to pray for victims and call for unity and an end to the violence.
Memorials for fallen police officers are all too common this summer. During the prayer meeting, police officers–including Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté–cried out to God to stop the violence.
“It is a spiritual battle we are fighting,” Forté said to a roar of approval from the hundreds of faithful in the audience. It may have been the first time that the head of a major U.S. city police force acknowledged that the struggle is beyond guns and racism.
Forté also said changes need to be made in the KCPD. “We’ve done a lot of things wrong,” Forté said adding there’s a need to recognize threats accurately, versus someone reaching for a wallet or phone—things that can cause officers to respond with force.
“So we have to train better, we’re not bad people, but we have to train better,” Forté said.
He also touted the implementation of the department’s tactical disengagement program, which teaches officers to create a protective distance up to 30 feet from a threatening suspect and communicate with that suspect and think about the proper way to proceed.
After Forté spoke, he joined the audience to pray for the victims of violence, their families and for the officers in the Kansas City Police Department.
The police and faith communities are looking at all options to help stem the tide of violence and distrust between various communities and the police. Consequently, it was announced that the KCPD would be seeking pastors for ride-alongs on patrols. The goal would be to allow pastors a perspective from that of the police officer but also make the pastors and their considerable clout visible in some of the city’s most dangerous and at-risk areas.
David Freeman said “young black man fear what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and that it could happen to them.”
“It makes me angry what has happened and I want to channel that anger into something positive.” Freeman said he was looking to find some inspiration at the prayer meeting.
– By Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice Editor