Episcopal church pushes for KC chief's termination

By The Associated Press

A Kansas City Episcopal church has joined other civil rights organizations in seeking changes in the city's police department, including the firing or resignation of Police Chief Rick Smith.

St. Mary's Episcopal Church said in a statement sent to to city leaders and police officials that the department needed to make changes to "eliminate the systemic racism" in the department, which it said causes crime and racial discrimination in the city.

Civil rights advocates and some churches have pushed for months to have Smith terminated, citing shootings or beatings of Black residents by officers. The effort grew after racial injustice protests this summer. 

John Simpson, chairman of the church's social justice ministry, said Thursday that he hoped other churches and predominantly white organizations would join the effort.

The Kansas City Police Department said Smith "understands that some people are pleased with his performance and some are not."

"He looks forward to leading us through these challenging times," said police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina. "We remain committed to serving the citizens of Kansas City, included in that service is protecting all citizens fundamental rights- to include first amendment rights to free speech."