November 17, 2010
He’s coming right for me.
That’s my thought as I watch a four-year-old German shepherd that looks to be solid muscle run at full speed in the direction of the bleachers where I and a group of about 75 members of The Chamber’s Centurions Leadership Program are sitting.
Centurions are a group of young business leaders who care about greater Kansas City and its future. They are highly successful, highly motivated, and a lot of fun. Each month, they plan and participate in task forces structured around key issues in Kansas City, such as politics, transportation, and health care. This month, their Law & Order Task Force delved in the issues surrounding the legal system, crime, and our police force – including the canine unit.
Which brings us back to the dog. He jumps into the air, less than six feet from me. Luckily, there is a police officer just in front of the bleachers where I and the Centurions are sitting. And it’s the padded sleeve on his arm, not me, that the dog is after. Whew.
In reality, there wasn’t much reason for me to worry. Police officers have been kind enough to host this demonstration to show us just how well-trained the dog is – he is trained to find illegal drugs and to protect himself and his officer in the field.
It’s been quite a day, to say the least. Before the canine demonstration, the group heard from Tiffany Murphy, executive director of the Midwestern Innocence Project, about how her team of students, faculty, and volunteers work to exonerate innocent prisoners. Two FBI agents discussed how our region’s state line means they are involved in solving interstate crimes in Kansas and Missouri.
We toured the beautiful Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse, one of only three in the country where bankruptcy and district cases are combined under one clerk. We learned about Missouri’s judicial system from someone who would know: the Honorable Duane Benton, former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice and current justice on Missouri’s Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. And we toured the Jackson County Detention Center. Tour guides gave us a glimpse into the typical day in the life of a prisoner there, who may be convicted of or awaiting trial for any number of crimes.
After the canine demonstration, we head to the Jackson County Courthouse, where Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders tells us how much the detention center has improved, and how much more efficient it has become. Finally, Kansas City Missouri Police Chief Jim Corwin discusses crime in Kansas City and how the police force responds to it. Centurions have plenty of questions for all our speakers – and their willingness to be candid with the group is one of the reasons these events are so valuable.
The group has learned a lot today, but learning is just one part of the Centurions experience. The most important part of any task force day is discovering how to continue their learning and extend it into service and leadership.
For example, Centurions will volunteer later this month at a fundraiser benefiting the Kansas City Crime Foundation’s Surviving Spouse and Family Endowment Fund. They will also see leadership firsthand when they experience a ride-along with a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer.
The two-year program is packed with times like these: hands-on in the community, up close with influential leaders, and a lot of fun to experience with a network of other civic-minded individuals.
Applications for the Centurions program are accepted annually on June 1. For more information about, go to www.centurions.org.