Darryl Forté sits behind his desk, his head angled down slightly, a bit of scalp showing through his closely cropped black hair. His crisp white shirt is the very same one that he wore as a member of the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's homicide unit in 1994. And 17 years later, as chief of police, he's still dealing with the city's troubling homicide rate. He spins his chair and pulls a pair of three-ring binders off a credenza behind him — one is an inch thick, the other the size of a telephone book.
"These are the biggest ones you can get," Forté says. "We're going to be doing an analysis of every homicide within 24 hours. This is not just crime analysis — it's intelligence analysis. We have to get away from collecting statistics and instead ask: What are we going to do with them?"
Since Forté was sworn into office two months ago, on October 13, there have been 21 homicides in Kansas City. By his count, he has personally attended 19 of those crime scenes. Each has left a fissure in the community. But it was the shooting of his childhood friend, Anthony Carlos Richardson, that nearly cracked the city's new police chief. As Forté lays down one of the binders, he begins to talk about Richardson and the quiet anguish of the past month.
The morning of Friday, November 11, started as most mornings do for Forté: with a text from Richardson. He had received the following from his friend two days earlier. Darryl, you sound tired. Get some rest. You can't do God's work dead. Love you, man.
Richardson had been looking out for Forté since the two grew up together as next-door neighbors in south Kansas City.
"He used to tell me: 'You're going to be a police officer — you better not do that. You need to be a good boy,' " Forté says.
Richardson had recently moved to a home on Lister Avenue, bragging to Forté that he was going to illuminate the whole block with Christmas lights. Forté was planning to bring his friend a washing machine and a loveseat, but the day got away from him. At 6:30 p.m., he spoke briefly with Richardson, told him that he didn't think he could get there that evening. Less than four hours later, Richardson and his wife, Mary, and his cousin, Stephanie Brown, had been shot and killed at the Lister house.
"I called dispatch and I had to stop my car because I knew that was Carlos' house," Forté says. "That was probably the worst day of my career. I'm going to my buddy's house, driving slowly, and I'm thinking about not going."
But he did go, and he spent four hours at the scene — an empty feeling building in his stomach as the bile rose in his throat. Someone asked for the male victim's age, and the chief unconsciously recited Richardson's birthday: April 29, 1961.
November 11 was a brutal night in Kansas City. Police responded to six homicides that were committed within just 10 hours. It was the kind of night that has defined this chief's brief tenure, reinforcing the idea that the community and law enforcement are a long way from reducing violent crime in Kansas City.
"We have to have a sense of urgency in what we do," Forté says. The 49-year-old is a trim 5 feet 7 inches, and the authority he exudes stems from his moral certainty rather than from physical intimidation. Forté's eyes crinkle slightly when he smiles, which is surprisingly often. Still, his face offers only subtle clues to what he's thinking.