Gov. Laura Kelly has created a new commission that aims at studying racial equity and justice issues in Kansas.
The Commission on Racial Equity and Justice’s first task will be to focus on law enforcement community relations, according to a news release Wednesday from Kelly’s spokeswoman, Lauren Fitzgerald.
"As governor, I am committed to ensuring this latest tragedy does not fade into the next news cycle," Kelly said in a statement. "Communities of color do not have the luxury of time for leaders to address these issues. I have convened a diverse and qualified group of Kansas stakeholders, including members of law enforcement and advocacy groups, to form the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. Their purpose is to find and present policy actions the state can take on issues of racial equity and justice in Kansas."
Along with studying racial equity and justice in Kansas, the commission will host sessions with Kansans who have experience and expertise in those topics and make recommendations to Kelly, the Legislature and local governments on steps that can be taken to increase justice and racial equity.
USD 501 Superintendent Tiffany Anderson and University of Kansas’ Edward Campus Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Shannon Portillo will co-chair the commission.
Other commission members include Department of Administration Secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay, KU assistant professor Brandon Davis and Kansas ACLU strategic communications director Mark McCormick.
A representative of the Kansas Native American tribes will be selected at a later date.
Anderson said the creation of the commission makes it clear Kelly is committed to empowering a diverse group.
"The governor’s courageous step to address equity through this commission is a step that further defines Kansas as a leader and turns a moment of national unrest into a movement of progress for us all," Anderson said. "It is a privilege as the superintendent of Topeka Public Schools to co-chair the commission with Dr. Portillo, and I look forward to listening, learning and working with others to ensure we have more equitable systems in place, serving all Kansas families well."
The commission will be meeting virtually or in-person depending upon guidance from public health officials. An initial report will be given to Kelly by Dec. 1, Fitzgerald said.
"This is not an issue I feel comfortable sitting on and waiting for changes to happen," Kelly said. "We must be proactive in the way we approach these issues, as they impact the lives of Kansans every day. By focusing this commission initially on policing and law enforcement, we aim to make changes that will improve the safety of both citizens and police officers."