Thursday, June 20, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: An apology to the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department

By JOHN ALTEVOGT, Guest Columnist

We now have much more information concerning last Saturday’s home invasion of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s house by a mob of some 200-300 people doing what amounted to a photo op for Univision.

And one thing is clear - Unified Government Mayor/CEO Mark Holland and many of us (me included) owe the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department an apology.

Originally, I had been under the impression that the protest had lasted for an extended period, coming to a halt only when inclement weather forced the protesters back onto their buses.  That was incorrect.  That led me to confront what appeared to be a paradox between Western Wyandotte County’s stunning record of community policing and what appeared at first blush to be its non-response to the mob at Kobach’s home in Northwest Piper. 

At that point my conclusion was that this “non-response” was further evidence of Mayor Holland’s collusion with the mob, given that they had assembled at his church prior to going to Kobach’s home.

Information obtained through news sources and personal interviews with area residents have reinforced Holland’s culpability in giving our community a black eye nationally and internationally while exonerating our Kansas City, Kan., Police Department completely (although the mis-impression concerning police response times that has gone beyond the borders of our community is probably irretrievable).

First, let’s understand the nature of the protest.  It was never intended to be a lengthy process.  Many among that crowd are in this country illegally and they would have had no desire to stick around and wait for law enforcement to show up.  Protesting is one thing, getting deported quite another.  Instead, this was purely a photo op for Univision.  Get in, get some film for the cameras and get out.  The rain simply added a few more dramatic shots.

What this meant was that instead of coming out and parking in an orderly manner and proceeding calmly, the buses and accompanying vehicles parked willy-nilly causing traffic tie-ups, even in this rural neighborhood, for the brief duration of the filming.  All told, the protest itself took about 10 minutes and the film crew then took a few additional minutes to wrap up and leave. Start to finish, we’re talking about 15 minutes.

West Patrol is a huge district.  It is bordered on the north by Missouri, on the west by Leavenworth County on the east it extends into mid-town probably somewhere around the 6000 block and to the south it is bordered by Bonner Springs, Kan., Edwardsville, Kan., and Turner.  Piper itself is largely rural and home to many law enforcement officers.  The crime rates throughout western Wyandotte are either competitive with, or the envy of, every community in the metro area.  The Legends Shopping area is as safe as any.  Most criminal activity, and hence the highest focus of policing is in the eastern portion of the division.  The Legends, I’m told, has its own dedicated officer.

According to Google maps, taking somewhat of a midpoint at 80th and Parallel Parkway, the driving time to Kobach’s house is 18 minutes.  Changing the location to Division Headquarters yields a time of 17 minutes.

According to all the sources that I’ve talked to the police were not using their sirens or lights to get there.  That would indicate that whoever called them did not provide any information that the situation required an emergency response.

Driving through a crowded city traffic on an emergency call is more dangerous than simply proceeding normally to the location of a non-emergency call.  I suspect only certain types of calls will get an emergency response and whoever called in failed to provide information that would have triggered such a response.

There are two other factors that would have added to the confusion (and there may be more that I’m unaware of).  The first is the weather.  Precisely at the point the protest was starting/ending, a downpour ensued making streets slick and hazardous. I know, I was at The Legends at the Sprint store at the exact moment the protest occurred and there was a pile-up on Parallel by the Culver’s restaurant that would have required at least one, if not more squad cars.

And so a 15 minute response time is hardly out of the question for a non-emergency call to the outskirts of a huge division.  Indeed, it’s actually pretty darned good if you figure in the time it took for someone in the neighborhood to get on the phone and call.

For the record, I’m not sure at what point people are even counting the 15 minutes.  One car was reported to have shown up and then waited for back up.  That is policy in any department that I’m aware of.

The manner of dealing with any large assembly is to confront it with a force sufficient to deter its conduct.  To do otherwise only emboldens the mob, endangers law enforcement and could provoke additional misconduct.  At any rate, as I’ve previously indicated, even within the 15 minute window the only people left to talk to was the Univision crew.

Now, as for Mayor Holland’s culpability, thanks to The Kansas City Star's Mary Sanchez, we have a clearer picture of what went on at his church.  Over 700 people showed up at his church for amounts to a political meeting.  Of those, apparently 300 or so were bussed in from a radical Wichita group.

According to Sanchez the protest was per-mediated and most present were aware that it would occur (as evidenced by the Univision crew) and:

“More reasonable people attended the same immigration town hall meeting that preceded that action. Other leaders, many of them from the Kansas City area, pleaded with a group not to stop at Kobach’s Piper home as they returned to Wichita, Kan.”

Unfortunately, Mayor Holland was not among those who tried to dissuade this group from their assault on Kobach’s home.  He has since done an amazing Sgt. Schultz impression claiming not to have an inkling of the information everyone else at that meeting seemed to have.

I’m sorry, it’s just not believable for a politician to tell us that 700 people representing (again from Sanchez) “a wide range of labor, faith-based and community groups” showed up at his church and he wasn’t there to do some glad handing.

If he didn’t know, he should have known and his failure has marred an image of this community that we have worked long and hard to change.  In my opinion, he failed his community and his congregation and should resign from both positions.

A few days after the invasion, Kobach spoke to a packed room at the Frontier Steak House.  It would have been the perfect place to protest, except the only ones present aside from the audience was a healthy contingent from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department's West Patrol doing what they do every day, protect the citizens and visitors to western KC and assure their safety.

Again, I apologize for my uninformed comments.

Hopefully, our mayor will do the same by resigning.