Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The KCPD and our regional partners are ready respond to all critical incidents

We are all still reeling from and horrified by the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night. That kind of act will never make sense. When something like this happens, we often wonder, “Could that happen to me? Could that happen in Kansas City?” Unfortunately, this is a possibility in any city in America, or in the world.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department constantly trains for the possibility that it could. You should be confident that the Department is ready to respond to any type of critical incident and to coordinate with regional resources, if necessary.

Obviously, the greatest tool for a critical incident is prevention. We have analysts, officers and detectives working every day to gather and analyze information about individuals and groups that could pose a threat to the safety of our community. They need your help to do this. If something strikes you as suspicious, please give us a call and let us know. We’ve been told to do this with terrorism: “If you see something, say something.” That’s applicable in other criminal areas as well, such as brewing disputes that could escalate into violence. You could save a life by being aware and willing to share your concerns with us.

At this time, it does not appear there was anything law enforcement could have done to prevent what happened in Las Vegas. We know we can’t prevent everything but we can be prepared for it, and we are. Every officer on this department undergoes training for active shooter situations, and our Tactical Response Teams train for critical incidents on a weekly basis. We do regular table-top exercises for mass shootings and other large-scale critical incidents, including natural disasters. We work with many entities on these simulated incidents, such as the Kansas City Fire Department, Public Works, Health Department, Kansas City Power and Light, Spire (formerly MGE) and local hospitals. Just last month, we did a large-scale, two-day, tabletop exercise with critical incident scenarios that included working with hospitals in our region. Kansas City and the surrounding area are prepared.

In addition to our patrol officers, Tactical Response Teams are designed to handle critical incidents, and our teams are on duty day and night. They have numerous tools and equipment to gain access to barricaded active threats, just like the brave officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department set out to do when approaching the shooter’s hotel room door on Sunday night. Explosive breaching is one of the tools we have in our toolbox.

One of the great things about the Kansas City area is the level of regional cooperation we enjoy. Were a mass casualty incident to take place anywhere in the metro, we have everything in place to respond to it together within minutes: regional assistance agreements, radio interoperability and experience working together. That’s because we also train and cooperate regionally through agencies like the Mid-America Regional Council and the Metropolitan Tactical Officers Association (MTOA). The state line is irrelevant in critical incidents. The MTOA lobbied both legislators in Kansas and Missouri to change laws to allow officers on both sides of the state line to respond and assist in a critical incident. If a large incident were to take place in a neighboring city – even on the other side of the state line – we stand ready to assist their police department, and we know they are ready to assist us. One phone call or radio transmission is all it would take.

But that is the kind of thing we will do if needed. It’s not typical, but we will work with KCFD to ensure everyone receives the medical care they need as fast as they can. Many things won’t be typical in a mass casualty incident, but all first responders and medical personnel will be coordinating to ensure care is delivered as quickly as possible.

Of course we hope and pray nothing like what happened at Las Vegas or in terrorist attacks around the globe could happen to us or our loved ones, but as law enforcement, we have to be prepared for the possibility. We review these other incidents to see what we can learn and incorporate those lessons into our training and sometimes even into our equipment.

We realize events like this can be traumatizing to many individuals. I’m sure some would think about going to an outdoor concert differently than they did prior to this event. But don’t let evil win. Don’t change your lifestyle or refrain from participating in events you enjoy. Stay vigilant; if you see something say something to help keep others safe, so we all can continue to enjoy the freedom this country offers.

Our hearts are with everyone who was impacted by the horrible events that occurred in Las Vegas, including the first responders who ran toward the gunfire and had to endure such carnage. Rest assured, the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are ready to do the same.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, September 21, 2017

911 Call Center staffing is a very high priority

9-1-1 is the public’s literal life-line, and I take our responsibility to respond to and manage that life-line very seriously. The call-takers and dispatchers of the KCPD take calls and dispatch not just for police, but also for EMS, the Fire Department and Animal Health and Safety. The women and men sitting in our call center are the first first responders to every life and safety need in this city, and they are seriously over-worked.

Due to staffing issues that existed before I came into the Chief’s position, all of our call-takers and dispatchers are working mandatory overtime. From the beginning of the year to Sept. 15, about 70 people have worked 11,360 hours of overtime. They’re missing family events, aren’t able to pick up their children from school and are burning out. That amount of additional work in a job that is already high-stress is causing substantial turn-over, creating more of a staffing crisis.

What that means for the public is that you can be put on hold when you call 911. For the month of July 2017, the average hold time was 24 seconds. No one is satisfied with wait times for 911. We want that response to be without delay all of the time. That is the community’s expectation, and it is ours, too. And we are working toward that.

The recent Matrix staffing study recommended we hire seven more Communications Unit staff – that is add seven more positions. We have 14 vacant positions at present, so that would be 21 more people than we have now. (I’ll periodically be highlighting here how we’re acting on the other recommendations of the Matrix study.) Based on recommendations from national public safety telecommunications organizations, we believe that number should be higher than what Matrix recommended.

We’ve been out in the community recruiting and have conducted dozens and dozens of interviews with potential candidates. If you are interested in this very important and interesting work, please check out the job description and where you can apply! We welcome any inquiries.

But if we hire 100 people tomorrow, it would still be some time before the Communications Unit is fully staffed. A call-taker must undergo 13 weeks of training before being able to operate independently. To become a dispatcher, call-takers must undergo an additional 16 weeks of training.

So in the short-term, we are doing a number of things to reduce 911 hold times and mandatory overtime. We are working to bring in experienced part-time and contract call-takers and dispatchers. There also are several members on our department who used to work in the Communications Unit but have moved onto other jobs. We have offered them refresher training and courses on our new computer-aided dispatching (CAD) system so they can do voluntary overtime. I really appreciate those department members stepping up. Some of them haven’t been in the call center for more than 20 years, but they still had the skillset, saw a need, and they volunteered to meet it.

In 2016, our Communications Unit answered 1,202,589 calls. While we also have a great need for more officers, getting the Communications Unit adequately staffed is one of my highest priorities right now, and the Board of Police Commissioners have indicated it’s theirs, as well.

If you or someone you know has ever thought about having an exciting, rewarding career that directly serves others, please consider being a communications professional with the state’s largest law enforcement agency. Again, here’s how to apply.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

We're prepared for upcoming rallies

Police are aware of and prepared for a rally set for Washington Square Park on Saturday, Sept. 9. It is slated to involve numerous groups and hundreds of people from across the political and ideological spectrum. We also are prepared that some of those people will have differing viewpoints and may not get along. Our only duty will be to ensure that everyone is safe as they exercise their constitutional right to free speech, as I outlined in my previous blog. We are there as a neutral party. The event isn’t about us, and we will remain as uninvolved as possible. But we will have the resources ready should more involvement be needed to maintain safety. 

We don’t know every group or person slated to attend. But as is our practice, we have reached out to organizers of groups who we know will be there so we can work together to ensure everyone’s safety. I want to be clear in stating that we never invite anyone to a demonstration or ask attendees to assist us with enforcement activities in any way.

Based on our conversations with organizers and other information, we created an operations plan. We do this for every rally/protest/demonstration in the city and have extensive experience in keeping these events peaceful and non-violent. We appreciate the thousands of people who have come out to make their voice heard on a number of issues in a peaceful manner. That’s one of the great things about Kansas City: the quality of its people.

To accommodate the demonstration, be aware that Grand Boulevard will be closed Saturday morning and afternoon from Pershing to about 25th Street. Emergency no-parking signs will be placed around Washington Square Park, so if you park on the street in that area, please move your vehicle by Friday night to prevent it from being towed. If you are going to Crown Center, you can still access their parking garage from the south entrance. Just be aware there could be traffic delays and/or trouble finding a parking spot around the park. We also are notifying businesses in the area of the planned demonstration.

The public can expect to see high police visibility in and around the park during the event. Keep in mind these all are officers on special assignment. None have been pulled from patrol in other areas.

There was a similar demonstration at Washington Square Park in June with about the same amount of people as are expected this weekend, and everything went well. And on Tuesday night, there was a large demonstration in support of “Dreamers” which was very peaceful. In those cases, we also communicated with organizers beforehand, and everyone was able to share their views while following the law.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department wants a peaceful demonstration Saturday and at all future events, and our goal is to facilitate that.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The truth about how we respond to demonstrations and protests

Despite online rumors and conspiracy theories, let me be clear that the Kansas City Missouri Police Department never invites any person or groups to a demonstration. The KCPD does not sanction any demonstration events. In regard to a protest on Aug. 19, 2017, we never asked for any assistance from any militia group, nor would we.

The sole purpose of KCPD’s presence at any demonstration, rally or protest is to ensure everyone can peacefully and safely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights to speech and assembly.

Police cannot and will not favor one side over another, no matter how that group may align with our own personal ideals. Officers are only there to maintain peace. As a former Tactical Enforcement commander, I have done this many times. One of the most memorable – and an example of protecting constitutional rights even when we disagree with the message – is when KCPD was assisting the city of Joplin, Mo., after they were ravaged by a tornado in May 2011. A man who supported a group well known for hateful speech came to Joplin, and counter protests from a number of groups were planned. President Obama was scheduled to tour Joplin’s devastation on the same day. Dozens of KCPD officers were trying to maintain peace and order. Due to the building hostility, our officers tried to form a barrier between that particular demonstrator and counter-protestors when several people broke through and tried to attack the demonstrator. My fellow squad members and I tackled the demonstrator to protect him from the onslaught, and then we had to run him out of the crowd surrounded by officers. We undoubtedly saved his life, but ultimately we weren’t there to protect him. We were there to protect the Constitution.

KCPD members will speak with anyone who asks them questions about the safest way to go about a demonstration. A contact is not the same as “collusion,” which some on social media are alleging.


In fact, if police are aware of demonstrations in advance, we have a long-standing practice to reach out to event organizers days or weeks beforehand to give them a point of contact and trade concerns. Some groups even tell us how many people plan to be arrested.

Our policy reinforces what every officer is commanded to do at a demonstration: remain neutral and protect rights, people and property. This is what our policy states:

“A. All citizens have a constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest. This department has a professional mandate to safeguard and protect all citizens as they exercise their constitutional rights.

“B. The role of law enforcement officers at a peaceful demonstration or strike scene is to protect life and property and keep the peace. Officers must assume and maintain a neutral and impartial demeanor toward the issues of the demonstration or strike.”

You can see the full policy on our web site (the Response to Protest section begins on p. 18).

Note the section that says officers will “maintain a neutral and impartial demeanor toward the issues of the demonstration or strike.”

A recent petition calls for us to cordon off people like militia members at future protests. Our department has a number of practices to maintain peace and order at such events, and we use the minimum amount of intervention and/or force necessary. Commanders were on scene closely monitoring the situation on Aug. 19 to determine whether any greater levels of intervention might be needed. At one point, a confrontation did start between the two groups, and we used a low-level intervention – officers on horses – to separate them.

KCPD will remain as uninvolved as we can to allow for the free expression of ideas. We cannot ask one group to leave a public park or other public area. If two families show up in a park, we can’t tell one to stay and one to leave, and the same applies to protest groups.

Our only goal is to create a safe environment for everyone exercising their rights and for those who may be nearby. 

My first week as Chief

(Chief Richard Smith was sworn in as KCPD's 45th Chief of Police on Aug. 15, 2017.)

It’s been just more than a week now since I was sworn in as the Chief of Police of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, and it has been a whirlwind. I again thank the Board of Police Commissioners for giving me the opportunity to serve in this role. I am humbled and honored to do so.

I’d like to share with you a little about my first week as Chief. Last Thursday, the 17th, I met with all of our commanders and directors to discuss my vision for the department and how I think we can work together to achieve it. I have three primary goals:

1. Set employees up for success

2. Reduce crime and address neighborhood issues

3. Become more efficient and effective through partnerships.

There are many, many factors that go into achieving these things, and I’ll be sharing those in the future. But I wanted to give you a few examples of each of them now.

Set employees up for success- To better cope with the growing mental health crisis that is falling more and more on law enforcement, all patrol officers will receive Crisis Intervention Team training. This will allow every responding officer to have the tools and training necessary to respond to people in mental health or substance abuse crisis in a way that ensures everyone is safe and the person gets needed assistance.

Reduce crime and address neighborhood issues- We’re implementing patrol division-level crime intelligence meetings. Commanders of each patrol division will be held accountable for the crime in their areas. And as soon as staffing allows, all patrol division stations will have an additional community interaction officer, making for 12 altogether. I think this is one of the most important positions on the KCPD, as these officers serve as the points of contact for all neighborhood concerns.

Become more efficient and effective through partnerships- We are working to get social workers assigned to each patrol division in the city. We started this last year when I commanded Central Patrol Division, and our social worker addressed numerous social problems that had evolved into public safety issues, from unruly gatherings of youth on the Plaza to neighborhood disputes. She has been able to step in and resolve things in ways law enforcement could not, and I am certain this would be beneficial city-wide.

I’ve also spent my first week addressing staffing issues. We need to get more call-takers and dispatchers in our 911 Call Center, and we need to get more patrol officers on the streets as soon as possible. They are the heart of what we do as police.

So in the past week, I’ve visited employees in many units around the department. Some were the officers in Central and East Patrol Divisions, and I paid two visits to our Communications Unit to let them know that we are working to get more quality personnel hired to reduce their workloads and improve service to the people of Kansas City. Our patrol officers and communications professionals should know that their hard work is so appreciated and vital, and I am supporting them during these challenging times.

I’ve also been to multiple crime scenes and several protest events. It is very difficult emotionally, but I will continue to be out at crime scenes to see how our people are responding, and if we are doing the most we possibly can to get witnesses to come forward and send the right message to victims’ loved ones and bystanders. I also hope to continue to grow my understanding of what leads to these tragedies and to support the hard-working KCPD members who respond to these incidents. I also will be at demonstrations and events because I’d like to hear the community’s concerns and be accessible.

My first week as Chief of Police has certainly been eventful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look forward to serving you.



Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farewell from Interim Chief David Zimmerman

Chief David Zimmerman has served as Interim Chief of Police of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department (and author of this blog) during the last three months during the search and hiring process for a new chief. Major Richard C. Smith will be sworn in as the new Chief at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 15. Today, Chief Zimmerman sent out a farewell message to the members of KCPD, and he wanted to share it with KC residents. 

"As my tenure as Chief of Police draws to a close, I am compelled to expressed some heartfelt words about the last three months. I appreciate the Board of Police Commissioners affording me the opportunity to lead this great organization as they undertook the search for the next Chief of Police. 

"Also, the words of encouragement and support I have received from the public in my day-to-day interactions throughout this city is evidence of the tremendous strides made over that last five years to strengthen the relationship between the police department and the community we serve.
  
"Further, I find it necessary to express my gratitude to the men and women of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, especially to Executive Command for their assistance and the Chief’s Office staff who kept me on time, on task, on message and headed in the right direction. Finally, and foremost, I must thank all of the women and men of our police department who keep this 24/7 operation moving, particularly those answering the call for 'any car' or 'shots fired.' These brave souls do not hesitate to go in harm’s way to save another while guided by the better angels of our nature.  I realize it sometimes seems like an impossible hill to climb, especially as we try to adjust to staffing reductions of nearly 10 percent from previous years. However, I am confident the members of this organization will persevere and conquer any challenge that arises.  

"I only ask that you show the same support for Chief Rick Smith, who will need it as he faces the daunting task of dealing with violent crime plaguing many areas of our city.  

"Please know that I will cherish my 35 years with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, especially these last three months, while my thoughts and prayers will be for each of you long after I have ceased wearing the badge and uniform.

Chief David B. Zimmerman " 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Secure guns, protect children

It is so easy to keep a firearm out of the hands of children. And yet loaded guns keep falling into the hands of young children in our city, often with tragic consequences. Chief Darryl Forté addressed that on this blog last December

If you have a gun in your home, it is imperative that it is stored safely. If you do not have a safe in which to keep your firearm, you can get a free gun lock with no questions asked at any of our six patrol stations, Children’s Mercy Hospital, from anti-crime groups and at a number of other locations. Our officers have even passed these out in areas where children have been shot accidentally. These locks can be installed in less than 15 seconds, as demonstrated by Captain Ryan Mills for KSHB reporter Sarah Plake.


Gun locks are just a start. Adults should not leave guns lying around in areas accessible to children. They should sit down with their kids to discuss firearm safety and the dangers guns can pose. Every officer on this department has undergone extensive and continuous firearm safety training. I’d wager all of them who have children at home have gone to great lengths to store their guns securely and have had discussions about gun safety. I know I did when my kids were younger.

And as we come up on the Fourth of July holiday, the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and I implore you to refrain from celebratory gunfire. Bullets fired into the air come down, damaging property and injuring or killing people. As you saw on the aforementioned blog from Chief Forté, a 16-year-old was struck by celebratory gunfire last July 4th. And this year, the parents of Blair Shanahan Lane, an 11-year-old girl killed by celebratory gunfire in 2011, are once again going door-to-door with our officers in neighborhoods where our ShotSpotter system detected high levels of gunfire on Independence Day last year. Blair’s parents will tell their story of loss and how easily the tragedy could have been prevented. In the neighborhoods they visited in 2016, July 4th gunfire dropped by 100 percent from the same day in 2015, according to ShotSpotter.

There are many shootings that are difficult to predict and prevent. Accidental shootings by and of children are not. Very simple steps will stop the vast majority of these tragedies.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Monday, June 19, 2017

Additional resources deployed to areas experiencing violent crime, other factors

Violent crime does not occur in a vacuum, so we are using intelligence information to deploy resources in an effort to address the myriad issues related to violent crime. This week, we began using officers in some of our more flexible units – Traffic Division, Special Operations Division and Violent Crimes Enforcement Division (the enforcement arm of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance) – to proactively patrol areas that we have identified as experiencing high levels of violent crime and other types of incidents.

We’re recognizing that certain factors we may previously have thought were unrelated do play together. In areas where you find a lot of fatality traffic accidents and drug overdoses, you also find violent crime. We’re looking at numerous other factors, as well, including drive-by shootings, non-fatal shootings, homicides and more. Our Law Enforcement Resource Center is using that information to identify up to four relatively small geographic zones where additional officers are proactively patrolling and creating an increased, visible police presence.

These zones are fluid and could change as often as every 72 to 96 hours. Members across our department now attend biweekly IRIS (Incident Review/Information Sharing) meetings to share intelligence and information about violent crime. As the geography of where drive-by shootings, traffic fatalities and other factors shift, so too will the zones where we will deploy additional resources. We’ll decide at our IRIS meetings where these zones should be located. While we will not publicize the exact location of these zones, residents in these areas should notice the increased police presence.

I want to be clear this is NOT a zero-tolerance initiative. It is intelligence-led policing. We are putting extra resources in these violence-stricken neighborhoods to help the residents feel safer where they live. I want these officers to build relationships with the residents and deter violent crime, not stop and cite law-abiding citizens for minor infractions. We hope the residents will partner with us to warn us of festering disagreements that could escalate into violence, possible instances of retaliation or provide information that may help solve violent crimes.

This is one of several measures we are putting in place to impact the recent escalation of violent crime Kansas City is experiencing. It complements our other proactive crime prevention initiatives. The redeployment of officers started this week and will continue indefinitely. We felt this was important to do to make the people living in these areas feel safe, so we’re not putting a timetable on it.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Update on implementation of body-worn cameras

Last fall, the KCPD engaged in a 12-week pilot project to determine the cost and infrastructure required to implement body-worn cameras on all patrol officers. We presented the results of that project to the Board of Police Commissioners this week. I also wanted to share those results with our community.

The pilot project was a very scaled one. The cameras were used only by a few squads at a time. Just those few officers produced an average of 147 videos totaling 82,000 megabytes (MB) a day. The whole project produced 9,300 videos and 5.1 million MB total. Scaling that upward department-wide, we determined we would need 2.4 petabytes of storage (that’s more than 1 billion megabytes). Under the industry-standard 5-year contract, that kind of storage would cost about $3.2 million. For access and security purposes, we determined an on-site server for storage would be best, as opposed to a cloud-based solution.

Those are just the storage costs. Initial equipment costs would be about $2.1 million, with a $56,000 annual maintenance cost. To handle the increased requests for the video from our own officers and investigators, prosecutors and other attorneys, media and the public, we would require up to 25 additional positions at the cost of about $2.2 million annually in salary and benefits. Two new network administrator positions also would be needed at about $173,000.

Finally, there is the infrastructure piece. In order to get the videos from the patrol stations where they will be downloaded to the central server, we need a robust fiber optic connection. We can have all the data in the world, but if there’s no highway for it to travel on, it does no one any good. Our current bandwidth is just enough to handle the videos and storage from our in-car camera systems. It could not handle the additional data. Fortunately, we are working with the City’s Information Technology Department on implementing these fiber solutions.

Those are the results of the pilot project. As you can see, body-worn cameras will be a costly undertaking, and we must work with both elected City officials and staff to determine funding priorities, not just for the police department but for all city services.

Philosophically, we support body-worn cameras and want to implement them as soon as is feasible. But in our research, we have found too many agencies that – in an effort to launch body-worn cameras quickly – created a program that was unsustainable. Some are even being forced to roll back their programs. We have taken a very measured approach because we want to be good stewards who will keep the promises we make. If we say we’re going to implement body-worn cameras, we will, and we will have the storage, infrastructure and personnel to properly support and maintain them.


We also met with many community members to draft a policy for body-worn cameras and the footage they capture. We listened to their concerns and combined them with lessons other law enforcement agencies have learned in their use of body-worn cameras to create a policy that we believe fosters transparency and accountability while protecting community members’ privacy.

We have long been supportive of video to ensure accountability, to identify any issues that could require training and to provide indisputable accounts of incidents. Our in-car camera systems (“dash cams”) have been in use since 1999 and are currently installed on all 337 of our patrol cars. Any body-worn camera systems must complement the in-car cameras we have in place. We will continue to keep the public updated on the progress of the body-worn camera implementation at KCPD.


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, May 26, 2017

Interim Chief Zimmerman: My first week on the job

As I near the end of my first week as Chief of Police, I must acknowledge that I could not fulfill the responsibilities of this position without the support and encouragement of the women and men of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. My experiences this week only reinforce my conclusion that I made the right choice over 34 years ago when I joined this organization. 

As for the community we serve, the support I have received over the past week is humbling as individuals I don’t personally know approach me with words of congratulations, along with offers to help and kind words of reassurance. I have been a life-long resident of Kansas City, Missouri, raising a family here, and I will continue to call this great city home long after I am finished with policing.

One final thought as we gather with friends and family this Memorial Day weekend to remember the loved ones we have lost, I pray everyone has a safe holiday and we extend a hand of friendship and support to those around us.