LTE: Daily paper has abandoned journalistic integrity

As an employee of the KCPD, a two-time Emmy-nominated journalist, and a lifelong resident of Kansas City, I can only say that the journalistic lens of the “[Kansas City] Star” has become one clouded by bias and sensationalism. Journalists are bound to 5 core principles of reporting. They comprise: accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, truthfulness, and public accountability. By continuing to run unashamedly biased stories about the police department while simultaneously issuing baseless calls for the chief of police to resign or be removed from office, the Star shows its contempt for those core principles and its commitment to click-bait journalism. As a journalist myself, and as someone who grew up reading the “Kansas City Star,” I can only say I am disappointed the Star has abandoned its institutional credibility, not to mention its own motto of “a paper for the people.”

The Mission of the Kansas City, Mo. Police Department has always been, and will continue to be: to protect and serve with professionalism, honor and integrity. A recent article in the “Kansas City Star,” published on Oct. 27,2020, wildly attributes the increase in violence in our community to a lack of trust in the police department. What’s even more troubling is that the Star made this claim without any evidence to back it up – relying instead on anecdotal incidents that occurred, in some cases, decades ago. When the article ran, KCPD reached out to the Star and asked for clarification on one particular incident cited in the article. The Star replied that the incident had occurred “during the 1970’s” – a response that lacked both research and, more importantly, journalistic integrity.

The thought that a media outlet would rely on an incident from over 40 years ago to support its position that a lack of trust is what fuels community violence in 2020 is almost appalling. This article was the catalyst to this response.

The Star would have its readers believe that the KCPD has done nothing to improve its relationship with the community therefore being the cause of violence and criminal activity. The men and women of KCPD proudly participate in numerous community outreach programs and have been at the forefront and years ahead of other departments when it comes to implementing strong, encouraging, and trusting community relations. One example is our social workers. KCPD was the first police department in the nation to employ social workers as a resource for our patrol officers over 2 years ago. However, the Star has chosen not to report on our social workers or any of their outstanding accomplishments.

Recently, they blatantly omitted coverage of the police department in partnership with other community organizations during events. Over the last two weekends of October, all of our patrol divisions, 6 divisions total, hosted their own Trunk-or-Treat events and participated in several other Halloween engagements throughout the city with numerous local organizations and churches. This holiday season, KCPD will be responsible for distributing well over 1,000 meals and gifts to people in the [Kansas City] metro. The Star did not report on a single one of these events.

Just over a month ago, the mayor walked the Lykins neighborhood along with KCPD Community Interaction Officers. This event and many others since then [are] a collaborative effort to bring awareness to the Reform Project KC. The “[Kansas City] Star” did report on this walk but completely omitted the fact that KCPD was present, even going so far as to leave KCPD officers out of any photographs. KCPD officers were not only there, but have walked alongside the mayor and other civic leaders at several events this past year, but the Star’s slanted journalism would lead you to believe that we are never present at any community event.

Kansas City, Mo. has also seen a drastic decrease in homicides since the start of Operation LeGend. More resources than ever before have been implemented across the police department and positive changes can be seen throughout the community. The Star has not reported on this fact but has instead pushed editorials and articles that would make the audience believe the exact opposite.

Most shockingly, the Star has chosen to not cover the KCPD’s response to COVID-19. KCPD has assisted numerous community organizations by distributing over 525,000 meals and other basic needs and will continue to do so as long as there is a need in our community. Most media outlets in the [Kansas City] area have reported on these distributions and have continued to report them as they occur. By ignoring these efforts, the Star has done a disservice to this community.

A “paper for the people” should tell the people where they can go to get assistance, especially during a pandemic, when people have lost jobs and in some cases their homes. A “paper for the people” should inform the public of its police department’s numerous efforts to build relations and protect its city. Instead, the Star has shown it has no interest in supporting the wellbeing of the community but would rather fill their pages with click-bait stories that blast and ridicule the police department.

The Star also demonstrates its anti-KCPD bias when they describe a lower than average sustained complaint against an officer as a negative as opposed to a reflection of a professionally run organization. Citizens of Kansas City should be proud that their police department upholds higher standards than other departments around the nation. Citizens of Kansas City are our eyes and ears in this community and it is our commitment to work with all of you to facilitate positive changes. The City has in place, since 1969, the Office of Community Complaints (OCC) which is an independent office under the Board of Police Commissioners and has been the gold standard for other police departments nationwide. It is the longest running community complaint office of its kind in the country. It is a diverse independent review board made up of local citizens, not police officers, who are vested with the responsibility of investigating all complaints fully and thoroughly. Complaints against officers within the KCPD are sustained well below the national average, but to read any article or editorial in the Star within the last year one would be led to believe that this is a bad thing.

The “[Kansas City] Star’s” openly biased reporting has created more of a divide in our community than the police department ever could. An honorable news outlet must tell both sides to every story to uphold journalistic integrity and will inform its community rather than create chaos. They educate their communities with truthful and well researched information. At best, the “[Kansas City] Star’s” shoddy journalism is little more than a form of corporate-driven mendacity – click-bait, if you will, whose sole purpose is to generate readership through conflict.

On behalf of the
Kansas City, Mo. Police Department,

Cher Congour

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