Boston Daniels was a well-respected veteran of the Kansas City Kansas Police force, but he became a Kansas City celebrity in 1970 when he was appointed Kansas City, Kansas’s first African American police chief. After 25 years with the KCKPD, his appointment was applauded by his colleagues and in the community. The first Black police chief of the city of 170,000 residents, he was known for his detective skills, which he used to solve close to 5,000 criminal cases. His philosophy of “preventative policing” centered around paying attention to situations before a crime happened, and he believed the success of law enforcement officers depended on their relationship with the community.
Daniels was born in Foreman, Arkansas, the son of a Baptist preacher and farmer who died when he was just 12 years old. He grew up helping on the family farm and chopping cordwood when he was young. He attended Arkansas A & M in Pine Bluff, where he studied agriculture and tailoring before moving to Kansas City in 1928. There, he held a number of jobs, including working on a street crew with the Gas Service Company, working for the Cook Paint Co., and the James Oil Co. He worked for North American Aviation during WWII, building Army planes, and in 1945 took a position at the KCK Police Department, a longtime ambition of his. A smart investigator with keen instincts, he rose through the ranks at the Police Department, promoted first to Lieutenant, and then Major, head of the Investigative Division. Daniels had planned to retire from the department and run for Wyandotte County Sheriff but was convinced to stay on and was promoted to Chief of Police in 1970.
Daniels was known as a skilled communicator; he developed strong instincts for fighting crime and became an expert at detecting shoplifters, often going undercover and using disguises while on the shoplifting detail. He told Ebony magazine in 1970, “One main goal of mine is to improve communications between our department and the community so that we can work together toward erasing crime.” He trained his mind to remember people’s faces and names “whether they were dishonest or not.” His photographic memory helped him make many arrests and reduce shoplifting losses on Minnesota Avenue to almost zero. He prided himself on only once having to fire his gun at someone during an altercation and believed that providing support to vulnerable citizens in the community was the most effective way to reduce crime.
Daniels retired from the Police Department in 1971 and went to work in security for Brotherhood Bank. His wife, Rosemary, taught cosmetology at Sumner High School for 25 years before leading the cosmetology department at the Area Vocational Technical school. He was beloved in the community for his years of service, his kindness and compassion, and his down-to-earth demeanor. Daniels’ progressive ideas about police work were credited for deescalating racial tensions in the 1960s. As a memorial to his legacy, Boston Daniels Park at 8th and Quindaro was named in his honor and dedicated in 1995, the year he died.