By LESLIE COLLINS
February 5, 2014
When 2013 statistics were released regarding enforcement of the citywide youth curfew, one council member questioned if racial profiling was involved.
According to Municipal Court, a total of 63 citations were issued for curfew violations in 2013. Of those, 87 percent were issued to blacks and 12 percent were issued to whites, said City Council member Jermaine Reed.
“I would hate to see an ordinance that unfairly targets a minority or anyone based off of a law that we have on the books here in Kansas City,” Reed said.
During the Jan. 29 Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee meeting, however, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté cleared up concerns.
Forté said the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) did not receive a single complaint of racial profiling for any of the 63 citations issued.
“We do everything we can to avoid arresting people for these curfew violations, but when we see them getting out of hand, we have to take action,” Forté said.
KCPD isn’t singling out minorities from the crowd, he said; they’re issuing citations to individuals causing problems. During his watch, Forté has witnessed youth running through the Country Club Plaza, trying to snatch purses and intimidating people.
“It’s their personal behavior that dictates how many citations we issue,” he said. “It’s imperative we keep our city safe. We know who the troublemakers are. It’s up to them; they dictate what we do.”
Last year, KCPD detained nine black males, 10 black females, one white female and one white male for violating the entertainment district curfew on the Plaza. For the citywide curfew, KCPD detained 28 black females, 10 white females and four white males.
When Reed questioned why curfew citations weren’t issued in the other four entertainment districts, Forté said the Plaza is where the incidents occur.
“We put our resources where we have problems,” Forté added. “It’s a public safety issue. I’m surprised we don’t have more ordinance violations down there.”
City Council member Scott Taylor said the curfew ordinance is working.
“It’s getting the attention of the parents. We don’t see a lot of repeat offenders which is the intent,” Taylor said. “We really need to call on parents again to step up and be parents; that’s the bottom line here.”
When City Council member Michael Brooks asked Forté if the city needed to simplify the youth curfew ordinances, Forté replied, “I’m open to anything, but let’s not just change it because we don’t think people understand it.”
Currently, there is a citywide curfew and a special curfew in the five entertainment districts, which include the Country Club Plaza, 18th and Vine, Westport, Zona Rosa and downtown. From Memorial Day weekend through September, the curfew is 9 p.m. for unaccompanied minors in the entertainment districts. During the same time period, the citywide curfew is 10 p.m. for youth under 16 and midnight for youth ages 16-17. During the school year, the citywide curfew for minors is 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Reed told Northeast News the ordinance should be simplified and be a “common sense” ordinance. Over the next six months, Reed said he plans to propose changes to the ordinance.
“It’s not a perfect system,” Forté said, “but this is all we have to work with right now. We’re willing to come to the table.”