KCPD meets with Congolese community in effort to build bridges

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

Kansas City Police officers met with members of the Congolese community this week to work to build bridges and establish relationships between them.

The meeting was held Saturday morning at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Community Interaction Officers Greg Smith and Patrick Byrd met with six members of the Congolese community to discuss what could be done to create a stronger relationship between the police and the growing Congolese community.

According to the members in attendance, it is estimated that roughly 118 Congolese families have made Northeast their home, totaling roughly 450 individuals.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DRC, or simply the Congo, is a country located in central Africa.

By area, it is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the second-largest in all of Africa, and the 11th-largest country in the world.

The DRC is a multilingual country and it has been estimated that a total of 242 languages are spoken there.

The majority of the members of the Congolese community in the Northeast are of the Bembe tribe, a people based in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and western Tanzania.

The members of the Congolese community in the Northeast are multilingual, as well, speaking three or four languages.

Smith and Byrd said they hoped that the meeting showed KCPD’s priority to establish a relationship, to create a space of open dialogue, and to better understand one another.

Smith said there had been incidents of members of the Congolese community being victimized, but were not reporting the issue to police. He said his goal was to understand why and if there was anything KCPD could do to help.
“As police, we want all citizens to feel safe and feel that they can talk about anything,”  said Officer Byrd. “We also want people to see us as human beings, not just uniforms.”

Smith echoed this and said cultures don’t get in the way of the police doing their work.

“We want to let everyone know that no matter what country they are from, they are part of the community,” he said. “We are here to help, to make you feel safe, and you can come to us.”

The members agreed and said they would be open to bringing their leaders, and more members of the Congolese community to a meeting with police officers, to help further bridge the gap.

One of the members of the Congolese community, Tonga, said one of the largest hindrances to them reaching out to police for help was a language barrier.

It was noted that calling 911 in the event of an emergency had proved difficult for the community.

The time it took to find a Swahili interpreter, connect the family with them, translate, and get the information relayed took a while.

One of the members of the Congolese community said what they usually do is have one point of contact on hand that they can call for emergency translation situations; however, there have been instances where that individual was unable to be reached.

He said most of the children in the Congolese community know English, as they have been attending schools in the community, but if they are at school, they have to wait for them to come home.

If necessary, he said their next plan is to call a relative out-of-state that can translate, and have them talk to police.
Byrd and Smith said they definitely want to make sure they have multiple people on hand to call in case of an emergency.

Tonga added that the Congolese community has a gathering once or twice a month to meet as a whole, but unfortunately did not have a specific meeting place.

Bobbi Baker-Hughes, CEO of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, offered the Chamber space as an option for the leaders to meet monthly, allowing them to have a central and fixed location in the Northeast.

Byrd and Smith said they would also be interested in meeting the young men of the Congolese community, to build a relationship and hopefully, have the young men take the message back to their peers that the police are approachable and that they don’t have to resort to violence.

Officer Byrd even mentioned the possibility of some of the young men pursuing a career in law enforcement for themselves.

“Our desire as police is to have the department be a reflection of the city that we serve,” said Byrd.

This would also help, he added, in situations where a Swahili translator is needed. Having a more diverse group of officers, he said, would help in those instances.

One of the young men, Dunia, said he actually has been dreaming of becoming an officer, and was excited to hear that this was an option to him as an 18-year-old.

He asked Officer Byrd for an application on the spot.

Another young man, Jumba, however, said he still felt fear when he saw the police, and he knows he is not the only one.

The majority of Congolese community members are hesitant to approach officers, even if they truly need help.

“We are fearful that the information we tell them will turn on us,” he said.

Purity Kinyua, a native of Kenya, proud member of the Mau Mau tribe, and Independence Avenue Ambassador with the Independence Avenue CID, agreed with the young man and said the police are very violent in their countries.

In 2016, DRC’s level of human development was ranked 176th out of 187 countries by the Human Development Index, a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.

As of 2018, around 600,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring countries from conflicts in the center and east of the DRC. Fighting has displaced nearly 4.5 million people.

Sitting next to Officer Byrd, Jumba said he had never sat next to a police officer before, and still felt fearful, eyeing Byrd’s gun.

By the end of the meeting, the two would hug, take a picture together, and exchange contact information.

KCPD is planning to meet with more Congolese leaders and community members in the upcoming months to build relational bridges and further assist the community any way they can.

Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
Enter your email address and click on the Get Instant Access button.
We respect your privacy

Comments are closed.

  • Deadly Independence Avenue shooting under investigation

    September 18th, 2019

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News A shooting on Independence Avenue turned deadly Friday afternoon, September 13, after Jordan Smith, 55, was […]

    The 2019 International Marketplace Taste and Tour

    September 18th, 2019

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News Dozens of residents explored Historic Northeast and experienced cultural cuisine from around the globe this past […]

    National Cheeseburger Day is September 18!

    September 18th, 2019

      St. John Burgers 6200 St John Ave (inside Super Flea) Carlos and Juan Salazar, Northeast residents, are the owners […]

    Illegal dump site identified

    September 18th, 2019

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News In what’s being called one of the most egregious cases of illegal dumping in recent history, […]

    Hunt for new KCI airport workforce begins with community outreach

    September 11th, 2019

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News Residents who are interested in working to help construct the new Kansas City International Airport have […]

  • KCPD recruits run to honor fallen officers

    September 11th, 2019

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Kansas City Police Department recruits honored the lives of officers killed in the line of duty […]

    KCPD officer receives Sgt. Gary Cooley Unsung Hero Award

    September 11th, 2019

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News At this year’s Kansas City Recovery Coalition Award ceremony, Officer Mitchell Branch was awarded the Sergeant […]

    KCPD searching for person of interest in recent homicide who frequents Northeast area

    September 9th, 2019

    KCPD searching for person of interest in June 2019 homicide who is known to frequent area of Northeast Kansas City

    “La Selva de los Relojes” Latin theater comes to Historic Northeast

    September 4th, 2019

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News At the corner of St. John Avenue and Askew, Yosmel Serrano is working to create a […]

    Library extends operating hours across Kansas City

    September 4th, 2019

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News The Kansas City Public Library will be expanding operating hours beginning Friday, September 6, 2019 at […]

  • Faces Of Northeast

  • Postcard

    Burgers and Bowling

    September 18th, 2019

  • Remember This?

    Remember This? Big Boy

    September 18th, 2019

  • retorts illustrated by bryan stalder

  • Want articles sent directly to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
    We respect your privacy and will not distribute your information.