‘A Sign Of Progress’ — Prairie Village Names Its First Black Police Chief

Dec 10, 2020
Originally published on December 10, 2020 9:48 am

Prairie Village is gaining its first Black police chief in the city’s history.

Maj. Byron Roberson, who has served the Prairie Village Police Department for the past 26 years, will begin his new role as the city’s seventh chief of police when Mayor Eric Mikkelson officially appoints him on Jan. 4, 2021. Mikkelson announced those plans during Monday’s city council meeting.

“This department, this city, is a trailblazer in many ways, and I believe that this appointment is proof of that,” Roberson said. “We will continue to be innovators at the forefront of equal treatment of all citizens and good protection to our citizens who traverse through our city. And I think this will continue under my leadership.”

Roberson currently serves as deputy chief to Chief Tim Schwartzkopf, who will retire after 27 years of serving the Prairie Village Police Department. Schwartzkopf will become an additional assistant city administrator for Prairie Village and also begins that new role Jan. 4, 2021.

A first in Prairie Village and Johnson County

It appears to be quite rare for a Black man to serve as police chief in Johnson County and statewide. To Prairie Village city officials’ understanding, Roberson could be the first Black police chief of any city in Johnson County’s history. Roberson may also become the third Black police chief to be in active service in Kansas, according to current records from the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police.

“There’s always a first in everything; that, to me, is progress, and progress in the right direction,” Roberson said. “Some may be surprised that in 2020, I am the first African-American police chief in a very progressive county like Johnson. From all accounts, it’s true, but that is a sign of progress. That is another example of the trailblazing of the city of Prairie Village.”

Roberson said he is honored to have this position.

“This is just one thing of attempting to be as diverse and inclusive and fair by putting not just an African American in a position of power, but the right and best person for the job; it just so happens to be me this time,” Roberson said. “But first only means the beginning. This just puts a spotlight on this is where we need to go.”

Schwartzkopf said he was “excited and honored to pass the baton” to Roberson.

“He is the right person to be police chief for our department,” Schwartzkopf said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Roberson said he plans to continue to keep safety of officers and residents at the forefront of police operations.

A 26-year police veteran

Roberson has served in Prairie Village and Mission Hills since 1995. Prior to this role, he served for two years in Plattsburg, Missouri. During his time with the Prairie Village Police Department, Roberson has been a field training officer, narcotics detective and shift supervisor.

He rose in the ranks from corporal all the way to major and has served as deputy chief of police since April 2019.

Roberson earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Jackson State University and a master’s degree in administration of justice from the University of Central Missouri. He is also an adjunct professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Roberson is a graduate of the 369th Session of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command, and a graduate of the 269th Class of the FBI National Academy.

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