Chief Kirk Moore is Moving Ypsilanti Forward as New Top Cop

Police departments across the United States have been embroiled in tense relationships they’ve had within Black communities for centuries. From areas where large numbers of Black people reside being over-policed to the excessive use of force against Black individuals, the relationship between Black citizens and police has always been one of distrust and struggle.


Some law enforcement agencies claim the reasoning behind the heavier police presence in Black communities is simply targeted patrols – their response is that they go where high crime is located, and they tend to get by with qualified immunity laws that provide “justifiable” use of force claims and thereby offer immunity protection for officers.


We’ve seen news headlines where officers and police agencies are tried in the court of public opinion for their treatment of Black individuals in traffic stops or during 911 calls for service in tense situations.


But as stories of unequal treatment of Black people by police continued circulating throughout the country, a shift was happening in the way communities with large numbers of Black residents chose leadership within their police departments.


Particularly in Michigan, several communities shared the belief that policing needs to change. And within the recent past, several cities selected Black men to lead the evolution of policing within their communities.


Kirk Moore, for instance, took over as the new Chief of Police for the City of Ypsilanti six months ago following a nationwide search. Ypsilanti, home to the campus of Eastern Michigan University and a population just north of 20,000 residents welcomes a Black male chief and native of New Orleans who grew up poor.


Despite what statistics show, Moore defied the odds of growing up in a single-family household in an environment where drug dealings took place just outside his home. He says that his supportive and loving family are big reasons why he got to where he is today.


“My family stood in the gap, so I didn’t get involved in that, and I turned my attention to sports and academics,” Chief Moore says.


He would eventually turn his career and focus on law enforcement, being inspired by the work of an uncle as Deputy Sheriff and his younger brother’s father, who was a detective.


“I saw it as a path for me, and I had a real strong desire to really do for others what was done for me, and that’s stand in the gap,” Chief Moore said.


His leadership in multiple police agencies across the country has landed him here in the metro-Detroit area, and it’s not loss on him the work that cut out for him locally but the tainted image of the profession by some in the Black community, something Chief Moore is looking to address.


“There has always been this since of duty that I wanted to influence the profession nationally to change how we in interact with our citizens,” Chief Moore says. “We’re not at war with our citizens, we should be servants to our communities, …what I would like to see our profession focus on is to see the humanity in what we do.”


He believes leaders who are truly trying to be transportive and hold bad policing culture accountable are up against the “battle for the soul of the profession.”


He believes leaders like himself can have the power to turn policing into model agencies reflective of the community and what it wants to see, or law enforcement can continue down the same path that undermines and devalues communities.


Chief Moore believes it’s all about being intentional and having the desire to be a change agent. Even when Black critics challenge and question his role, he responds in kind, “if not me, then who?”


As someone who is passionate about creating a more equitable police force, Moore was pleased to find out that his son was also interested in a similar future. His son is currently in a police academy, aiming to follow in his father’s footsteps.


“I’ve poured into him on being an independent thinker, …and his obligation to service and to serve everyone.”


The irony amid the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been critical of law enforcement, is the faces of Black men holding the mantle of leadership in departments that have often been their target, now aiming to be the change people so often people seek.


In the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic murder by Minneapolis police in 2020, law enforcement agencies across the country faced widespread condemnation and challenges in police recruitment.


“In the Black community, we’ve always been told not to snitch, don’t be the police, stay away from police. But if we want to change the profession, then we as a community have to be involved,” Chief Moore says. “We can’t be bystanders.”


In just a few months on the job, Moore has already made strides to increase the presence of Black officers on the job in Ypsilanti, and he’s also been promoting 4deserving Black officers into more leadership roles on the force. He recently appointed Dr. Timothy Anthony as captain. Anthony will serve on Chief Moore’s executive team. Chief Moore believes providing opportunities for advancement and that aligning the organization with best practices is important for transforming the culture of the department. Ypsilanti’s police department recently participated in a job fair aimed at recruiting more officers for the job.


Moore takes the community approach to policing even further, having attended several events throughout the summer and fall, including the Eastern Michigan University homecoming football game, Halloween events, festivals, parades, and school functions, all as a way to change the way the department interacts with the community.


Chief Moore is aiming for the City of Ypsilanti police department to be a model agency for Washtenaw County and beyond and an agency the community can trust. And that may be the key point: building trust. It’s something police agencies must accomplish for the communities they serve.



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