KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Deputy Chief Stacey Graves will be Kansas City’s next police chief.

She will be the first permanent female police chief in the Kansas City Police Department’s history. Two women have previously served as interim chief.

Graves was hired over finalists DeShawn Beaufort from the Philadelphia Police Department and Scott Ebner, a retired lieutenant colonel for the New Jersey State Police.

Graves, who has been acting deputy chief, is a veteran of the Kansas City Police Department with more than 25 years of experience. She currently commands the Patrol Bureau and oversees all six patrol division stations and the traffic and special operations divisions.

She was sworn in Thursday morning.

“I’m humbled to serve the men and women of this department and our city. I’m confident in my ability in continuing to advance the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department as a progressive law enforcement agency and trusted community partner,” Graves said following the announcement.

Graves said during a news conference that one of her first steps as chief will be to build bridges so the department, city leaders and community members can work together to make Kansas City safe.

“I know the community, the community knows me,” KCPD Chief Stacey Graves said. “The community knows, I feel like I portray my heart, maybe that’s to a fault sometimes. But I think Kansas City my proven 25 years of service to this city and my willingness to take on this position.”

She also promised the department will be “an open book” while dealing with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and other issues.

“I will be that front-facing communicator that this city wants and needs,” Graves said. “If there’s something that we’re doing wrong, the motto is ‘mess up, ’fess up and move on.’ And the ‘move on’ isn’t forget about it. It’s learn from it and move forward in a better way.”

Graves was previously in charge of the Human Resources Division during the department’s pandemic response. She also served as the Patrol Bureau’s executive officer before being named to her current role earlier this month.

“As we’ve reviewed all of our candidates and looked at the hearing, and saw public comment, we saw that Chief Graves has had a track record of working with community organizations,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

Graves said she plans to hit the ground running in the community.

“That’s where I’m going to start and obviously the board, the mayor and really forge those relationships even with our city council, with our community,” Graves said. “I just want to embrace the men and women of this police department and I’m just so humble to serve them.”

As the department faces several investigations, Graves said she plans to handle them like an open book.

“Come on in,” Graves said. “Like obviously police departments across the nation are under great scrutiny. I want to show hey if we’re doing something we’re not supposed to do, then let’s talk about it. Just be an open book.”

Graves has experience in patrol, media and internal affairs. The Kansas City Police Department said Graves’ other assignments include the Target-Oriented Policing Squad (TOPS), Career Criminal Squad, the Drug Enforcement Unit, and patrol.

She earned a degree in Administration of Justice from UMKC in 1997, and an Executive Master of Business Administration from Benedictine College.

Local leaders respond to Graves’ hire

Graves was the only Kansas City officer among the three finalists for the job. Mayor Quinton Lucas said Thursday that was not a deciding factor in choosing Graves.

“I don’t think it’s the status quo at all,” Lucas said. “I think as you see Chief Graves execute long-term on her plans and her vision, I think that she is just as creative, as innovative, as any of the candidates that came before us.”

He said the board focused on the candidates’ plans for making the city safer, a long-term vision to address violent crime, and ensuring any changes will have support from officers and community members.

“She’s somebody’s who’s going to do the work to make sure that past any personalities and any politics, we’re trying to get things done,” Lucas said. “And I think in connection with the DOJ investigation, any lawsuits, anything that comes up, you’ll see this department be as open as it can.”

On Thursday, Graves met with Kansas City Fire Chief Donna Lake, who is also the fire department’s first female chief.

Donna Lake and Stacey Graves (Photo via City of Kansas City)

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker released the following statement Thursday:

“We should acknowledge that the board has named its first permanent woman chief in nearly 150 years. I want to assure the community that I will continue to do my job as your prosecutor, as I’ve demonstrated for more than a decade. As always, we welcome any partnership that comes from law enforcement agencies in our community.”

However, the Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project said in a statement it was “incensed, unsatisfied, and frustrated” by Graves’ appointment, which it said was continuing the “status quo” in the department. It also criticized the board for not keeping promises to gather public input during the hiring process.

Pastor Darron Edwards led community groups helping the Police Board determine what the public wanted from its next chief. He was there Thursday as Graves was announced as the selection beating out
“I think Stacey Graves will be a front facing collaborating communicator that this city so desperately needs in a top cop,” Edwards said.

Tye Grant, Police Foundation of Kansas City President worked with Graves for most of her 25 year career, some of those in the same role overseeing the department’s media unit.

“We are focused here and are working to find out what’s leading to the violence here in Kansas City. We can’t do our jobs without the community helping us,” then Captain Stacey Graves said in a 2016 interview.

“Her experience in that role will give her a comfort level that most probably don’t have when they step into a role like that,” Grant said.

Recent KCPD controversy

The announcement comes five days after the police board held a public Q&A session with the candidates. It was the only meeting involving the public and the candidates.

A group of people who said they were with a group called “Decarcerate KC” interrupted the meeting, calling it a scam. Members of the group accused the Board of Police Commissioners and other city leaders of already selecting the new police chief.

Activist and former KCPD officer Alvin Brooks also sent a letter to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Monday, urging the board not to hire a new chief at this time. Brooks also provided several suggestions, including holding additional public forums with the three candidates.

Adding to a busy week for the Kansas City police board, on Saturday, a former department attorney released a scathing letter calling for Interim Chief Joseph Mabin to be fired.

Former Associate General Counsel Ryan McCarty‘s letter was highly critical of Mabin and also General Counsel Holly Dodge, alleging a hostile work environment, retaliation, records violations, corruption and more.

In one of his final actions leading the department, Mabin announced Monday that KCPD will create a new Community Engagement Division.

Mabin said the new division will “better utilize the people and resources that already exist to contribute to Kansas City’s well-being while still working out of individual patrol divisions.”

The new division will unify KCPD services like social workers and the crisis intervention team that once worked on their own.