Kansas City Police Chief: It takes a village to prevent flash mobs


Next time, mob naked.
  • Next time, mob naked.

Around prom season last year, a bunch of unruly, black teens -- yeah, I said it -- converged on the Country Club Plaza en masse. A pretty prom princess got tossed into a fountain. Teens disrespected Plaza foliage and yelled naughty things at adults. Traffic came to a standstill. One couple was assaulted and robbed in a parking garage. And lots of teenagers got blasted with pepper spray, courtesy of the Kansas City Police Department's Costco-sized canisters.

On his blog, KCPD Chief Jim Corwin stepped up and addressed threats of a repeat performance by placing responsibility where it belongs: with parents, and with the community.

Corwin writes, "The issue is rearing its head again, however, and many are coming to police looking for answers. But this is not a police issue. It is a community issue and a parenting issue."

When dresses

get wet, Italian style.

​It sounds like something Hillary Clinton might say. And in saying it, Corwin has been accused of shirking his responsibility. But when you

think about it, the KCPD is looking at a lose-lose situation where

so-called "flash mobs" of kids are concerned.

They could respond to hoards of kids with riot gear and force. But according to the KCPD's own account of the incidents that occurred April 10, 2010, all of the really bad things (muggings, assaults, fountain dunkings) occurred after police arrived on the scene. That's not to say that the KCPD caused the mayhem, but their appearance -- and their already not-so-great relationship with young people on the East Side -- exacerbated the tension.

Not responding is not an option for the KCPD, obviously. And, Corwin notes, preventing it isn't their job, either. (It's not their mission "to sponsor activities for youth or ensure parents are supervising them properly," he writes.) But parents can prevent it (try calling your kid's cell phone once in a while?). And the community can begin to prevent it, but first we have to recognize flash mobs for what they are: groups of bored kids who have been alienated by their city.

The hoards of "ordinary" people who descend on the Plaza every day have pretended that the bad things that happen on the East Side aren't their problem. Well, those kids who acted out last year were sending the message that it is.

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