Thursday, July 11, 2013

Civil responsibility in anticipation of verdict

Closing arguments are taking place today in the trial of George Zimmerman, a Florida man accused of killing Trayvon Martin. A jury soon will decide Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. The racially charged case has brought up a lot of emotions across the nation, and some speculate the verdict could cause civil unrest.

Kansas City is largely a community of good, law-abiding people, and we are confident people will react to the verdict as responsible citizens and respect the criminal justice process, just as we do. However, you can absolutely agree or disagree with whatever the jury decides and make your thoughts known. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to voice their opinion and peaceably assemble, and we will support everyone’s right to do so. But disagreement with any verdict in the judicial process does not give anyone the right to ignore the law and compromise the safety of others or harm their property.

I ask all members of the community to respect each other. Respect one’s right to voice an opinion, but also respect another’s right to be safe. I also ask everyone to work together to quell any disturbances that may arise. I know the Zimmerman case is an emotional topic, but we can’t let emotions bring discredit to Kansas City. Everyone is responsible for keeping their behavior in check, and if you see someone who isn't, try to help them redirect their feelings in an appropriate way. If that doesn’t work, call us.

We look forward to working with our supportive community during this time and every other day. You can be confident police are prepared for whatever might happen. We have trained for critical incidents for my entire 28-year career here at KCPD. Every officer receives critical incident response training in the Police Academy, and that training is updated and re-emphasized periodically. We also have officers who specialize in responding to these incidents. We always have the ability to re-allocate resources to meet any needs the community presents to us. Little that we do in response to these incidents is reactionary. Rather, we proactively plan for and train for all kinds of situations, including civil unrest.

But police are just a small part of what it takes to keep our city peaceful. We need everyone’s help to keep tensions down when emotions run high. Not only could this prevent civil unrest when a verdict comes down in the Zimmerman case, it also could prevent the majority of our shootings and homicides. The police are ready to appropriately respond to whatever comes our way, and I am confident the people of Kansas City are, as well.

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