TOPEKA—Governor Laura Kelly’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice met for their first meeting Thursday afternoon. The Commission meeting began with introductory remarks from Governor Laura Kelly.

“This is not the first time a group like this has been convened to discuss the structural inequalities that exist in our country,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “But I believe this national moment has provided the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, and the state of Kansas an opportunity to have an honest and informed conversation about the work that must be done.”

Co-chairs Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools USD 501, and Dr. Shannon Portillo, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs KU Edwards Campus & School of Professional Studies, led the conversation in discussing the structure, schedule, and priority goals of the Commission.

“In our first meeting, we outlined ways to ensure we engage others immediately and Governor Kelly’s charge that she reminded us all of in our first meeting is one that ensures the Commission empowers the community as we listen, learn and engage Kansans in transforming practices for the future,” Dr. Tiffany Anderson said.

“We had a robust discussion in our first meeting, outlining areas for inquiry and listening sessions,” Dr. Shannon Portillo said. “I am looking forward to engaging with our community listening sessions, and ultimately developing a report for Governor Kelly’s administration to take action on.”

The Commission plans to meet biweekly, every other Thursday, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for July 23rd, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. The meetings will continue to be held virtually and streamed to Governor Laura Kelly’s YouTube page.

Governor Kelly tasked the Commission with focusing their work first on law enforcement and policing in Kansas. Commission members discussed the following possible topics for the initial focus of their work:

  • Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC)
  • The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training (KSCPOST)
  • Former Commissions and reports (Federal & Local)
    • The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing
    • Forward Through Ferguson Police Reform
    • Kerner Commission
    • Other Kansas-specific reports
  • School resource officers and policing in schools
  • Bail bonds
  • K-9 officers and dispute resolution
  • Qualified immunity
  • Corrections officers
  • Recruitment, hiring, and decertification practices
  • Police misconduct records
  • Police unions and contract negotiations
  • Officer Residency requirements
  • Social determinants of health in prisons
  • Debtors’ prisons

The group discussed the methods of collecting data and reports for the Commission. National Governors Association, Governor’s staff, and stakeholders will be facilitating data and research for the work of the Commission.

“Engaging with the public throughout the course of these meetings will be crucial to crafting recommendations and policies that are specific to Kansas, and to amplifying as many voices throughout the community as possible,” Governor Laura Kelly said.

The Commission plans to hold a number of virtual listening sessions with stakeholders and communities across the state. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Public Defenders
  • Law Enforcement
  • Community members who have engaged with the criminal justice system
  • Spanish and other non-English-speaking communities
  • Immigrant and refugee communities

To engage with the public, the Commission will be providing an email address, mailing address, constituent services line, and Twitter hashtag (#KansasCREJ). More information regarding how constituents can submit feedback and testimony will be made available next week.

Thursday’s Commission meeting can be viewed here.