Heartland Presbytery, a regional body that represents the Presbyterian Church in Kansas and Missouri, recanted a statement made by Interim Executive Presbyter Rev. Dee Cooper in regards to the groups request for the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners to dismiss Police Chief Rick Smith.
The request for Smith’s dismissal was issued in an official letter sent to the Board of Police Commissioners by Heartland Presbytery on Thursday, March 18. In it the organization cited Smith’s “total lack of a working relationship” with Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker as one of the several reasons for the need of his dismissal. Cooper made a comment the following day saying “this is not anti-police; this is anti-process” in regards to the letter.
Tuesday morning, March 23, a press conference was held at the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) East Patrol Division, located at 2640 Prospect Ave., to address Cooper’s comment. During this time, Pastor Darron LaMonte Edwards, lead pastor of the United Believers Community Church and co-organizer for Getting to the Heart of the Matter, who has been in discussion with Cooper about her comment, read a letter of clarification on the behalf of Cooper and the Heartland Presbytery.
In this letter, Cooper said the goal of the original letter was to ensure that a transparent process of reform occurs within KCPD. She also said Heartland Presbytery recognizes there are different groups working hard to accomplish this reform and they know more work needs to happen.
“They recanted that one line because they did not know that there was a process that was moving that was in place,” Edwards said. “And so their positions are their positions, and I respect their positions and their convictions, but I wanted to be clear that there is a process that’s moving forward that we ought to be involved in.”
During the press conference, Edwards said Getting to the Heart of the Matter, which embodies over 50 faith communities, is working to involve everyone in that process. In 2021 alone, he said, so far the organization has hosted three patrol division meetings with community stakeholders. The group has also hosted lunches for community stakeholders, such as the Baptist Ministers Union and the Church of Scientology, to discuss community members’ concerns.
“Kansas City needs to join hands, not pointed fingers,” Edwards said.
The recanting of Cooper’s statement is not Heartland Presbytery renouncing their original letter for the dismissal of Smith, Edwards said.