Friday, October 17, 2014

Property crimes also decrease and remain a priority

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the reduction in violent crimes – particularly homicides – in Kansas City this year. But I want to assure you this does not mean we’ve forgotten about property crimes. We have many people working as hard as ever to stop those who commit these crimes, which affect far more of our residents than violent crime does.

And the proof of their hard work, combined with help from the community, is in the statistical pudding. Through the first of September, property crimes in Kansas City were down by 13 percent compared to the same time period last year. To break that down further, burglaries were down 19 percent, stealing was down 13 percent, and auto theft was down 5 percent.

I recently came across some great examples of the hard work our detectives are doing to protect our residents’ property and stop habitual offenders. The Central Patrol Division experienced a spike in business and residential burglaries over the last few months. There were several different patterns and modus operandi. Central Property Crimes Section detectives went after these cases with vigor. In one month, they filed cases on suspects in five separate burglary patterns, including a group of known gang members responsible for burglaries all over the metropolitan area.

They stopped a career criminal they’d previously called “Spiderman.” He would climb onto the balconies of second- and third-story apartments and enter them through unlocked sliding glass doors, stealing jewelry, cell phones and electronics. The detectives recognized the pattern because they’d investigated “Spiderman” five years ago and realized he’d been released from prison at the same time the thefts started again. Detectives conducted surveillance on him and followed him to an abandoned house full of all the property he’d stolen. He was arrested and charged.

They stopped someone else who was stealing lawn equipment from sheds and detached garages. Another suspect was arrested after prowling and stealing from numerous houses, often when the residents were home.

Another career criminal recently released from prison was breaking into downtown lofts by cutting through walls. Detectives gathered surveillance video and showed it to district officers to see if they recognized the man. They didn’t. That’s because the man had just gotten out of prison. He made the mistake of dropping a car title near one of the burglary scenes. The Central Property Crimes detectives were able to track him down, and he matched the suspect in the surveillance videos. He confessed to the crimes, and detectives found several of the items he stole at local pawn shops.

So in just one month, one property crimes squad stopped five major burglary rings. We have five other property crimes squads who are working just as hard. The drop in violent crime has gotten most of the press, and we are certainly encouraged by that. But through September 1, there were 11,133 more victims of property crime than violent crime in Kansas City. It affects many more people, and that’s why we continue to devote adequate resources to combating it. But fortunately, fewer and fewer people are becoming victims: 2,165 fewer victims of property crime this year compared to last year.

And as always, your help is integral to keeping property crime down:

· Do not leave items of value in your vehicle.

· Park in well-lit areas at night.

· Lock your home and vehicle.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflecting on my third anniversary as Chief of Police


Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of leading an organization filled with talented, dedicated, compassionate and professional employees. Since being appointed chief of police on October 13, 2011, I have experienced a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth thanks to many. 

Both my immediate and extended family have been nothing but supportive and encouraging during my entire 29 years of employment with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.  I am so blessed and appreciative to have them in my life. Same goes for my few close groups of friends who look out for my well-being, several of whom contact me daily.   

My faith-based supporters are very much appreciated as they have prayed for me regularly as well as remind me that I work for God and not for man.  Oftentimes I have made decisions that others question, which I encourage and welcome, but please know that I pray before making most major decisions and will follow the guidance of my heavenly Father. Thus far, when I have listened to him, many crises have been averted.

What I am most encouraged about during my tenure as chief is the reduction in the number of homicides in Kansas City. The reduction in the number of homicides committed this year is unparalleled during the past five decades. The credit for the reduction is only in part due to the efforts of the police department. Many organizations, programs and individuals are contributing to making our city safer than it has been for decades. Oftentimes when I respond to homicide scenes, I observe witnesses openly sharing information with detectives. Many are willing to respond to Police Headquarters to provide formal statements.

Even media coverage of violent crimes has diminished. My observations over the past 18 months have revealed less doomsday coverage from some of the local media outlets. During a brief period of my tenure as chief, I and others noticed an increase in negative coverage, even when there had been no increase in violent crimes.  Responsible reporting has, without a doubt, contributed to increasing the feelings of safety in some parts of our community. People tend to want to get involved more when they feel as though the situation is not hopeless.

We should not become complacent, nor should we claim victory. There is no cause to celebrate the still too-high number of senseless acts of violence in our city. We must continue to work together to make the greater metropolitan area one of the safest areas in the country.

What I am currently most concerned about is the police department’s inability to attract and retain qualified minority police officers. The number of minority police officers has increased during my tenure as chief, but not to a level where I am satisfied. Institutional racism exists within many organizations, and law enforcement is not exempt. I have noticed that many who broach the subject of recruiting have done little to contribute to solving the problem, but they often espouse to have the solutions for others to implement. The entire community should be responsible for recruiting police officers who can best serve our community. Weekly, in the national spotlight, we hear of negative race-related issues between the police and other segments of the community. These issues are real!  The community has made it clear that increased minority representation is needed. I implore the entire community to get involved. Ask yourself this question, “How might I contribute to increasing diversity?”  You can share your ideas/concerns at Attorney General Koster’s Roundtable on Tuesday, October 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the theater of the Student Union building on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5100 Cherry Street. Several local chiefs of police also will be meeting on Tuesday, at another location, to discuss minority recruitment and other issues. Rest assured that I will continue to keep this issue on the forefront of my agenda. (And FYI, I prayed before I drafted this paragraph.)

Organizational and cultural changes in the police department have been a continuous process and are necessary to gain and nurture community trust. Problem solving will continue to be viewed as a shared responsibility between the police and other segments of the community.

We will continue to practice fiscal discipline throughout the department to ensure continued financial viability and to increase efficiency, avoid periods of stagnation, continue to reach out to the community en masse through social media and by other means, incorporate emerging technologies in our day-to-day operations and to provide high-quality services in a customer-friendly manner.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the Board of Police Commissioners for allowing me to serve our community.  

Please know that I will continue to do what is in the best interest of the entire community and have no plans to retire any time soon. I am often asked how long will I serve as chief and if I have a contract. I will serve until I accomplish what I have set out to accomplish and no, I do not have a contract. By state statute I must retire at age 65. I am 52 years old, so I have almost 13 years of eligibility.

Thanks again to all who have contributed to making my dreams come true!

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kansas City Regional Crime Lab earns International Accreditation

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab staff are the behind-the-scenes folks on whom the burden of justice often rests. Their work puts perpetrators of violent and property crimes behind bars, thereby protecting our neighborhoods. They recently received an honor confirming what we already knew: they're among the best in the nation. The below is from our monthly Informant newsletter and describes what this honor means for Kansas City: 

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab has proved itself as one of the best in the nation after receiving a new breed of accreditation.

The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) bestowed their International Accreditation for Forensic Science Testing Laboratories on the Kansas City Lab on Sept. 3. A total of 104 city and county crime laboratories have earned the International Accreditation. Kansas City, however, is just one of seven labs nationwide to get accreditation in eight different disciplines, the most of any city or county lab ASCLD/LAB reviewed, according to their web site’s directory.

“For a local department, it’s a very impressive achievement to earn International Accreditation in all those disciplines,” ASCLD/LAB Executive Director John Neuner said.

The eight disciplines in which Kansas City’s lab earned International Accreditation are drug chemistry, toxicology, trace evidence, biology, firearms toolmarks, latent prints, crime scene and digital multimedia evidence.

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab was previously accredited under ASCLD/LAB’s Legacy Program, but leaders wanted to take it to the next level. Neuner said the new level of accreditation is more stringent, has more requirements and is harder to achieve. It requires forensic laboratories to conform to standards that are in place for labs around the world, not just those agreed upon by American lab directors, as the old system did.

It took two years of work for the Kansas City Lab to earn the International Accreditation, said Lisa Dowler, the Lab’s Quality Assurance Manager. A group of staff members from every discipline met on a weekly basis to ensure the lab met every single standard. She said the process made them better.

“It makes us look at ourselves and look at our processes and how we can continually improve them,” she said.

She said the new standards are very customer-based, and their customers are several people in the judicial process: detectives, prosecutors, courts, attorneys and whoever gets their reports.

The process also had an impact on everyone at the Lab, from the scientists to the Building Operations and Property and Evidence technicians.

“It affected how we communicate with our customers, how we order supplies, how we check our instruments, word our reports, fix issues when they arise, how we set our goals and manage the laboratory,” she said. “So not only was the scientific staff affected, everyone was, from the Building Operations personnel that clean the labs to the administrative assistants and how they order our supplies for us.”

So why did everyone go to so much work for a piece of paper that grants International Accreditation for the next four years?

Ultimately, it’s to fight crime. When the Crime Lab presents evidence that is all but irrefutable, criminals go to prison and victims get justice.

“It’s a symbol for the people of Kansas City and the courts that a quality system exists within your lab, and you’ve demonstrated you’re following internationally recognized standards,” Neuner said. “It gives greater confidence in the quality of work coming out of the laboratory.”


Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime continues to trend downward in Kansas City



The statistics that will be presented to our Board of Police Commissioners tomorrow continue to show a significant decrease in crime compared to last year. These are above and have been certified by the state of Missouri for submission to the FBI (that process takes some time, which is why these numbers are through the end of July).

As of this morning, homicides are down by 31.5 percent compared to last year. In fact, this is the first significant reduction in homicides in the last 50 years. There are many things to which I could credit this, and I don’t claim to know all the reasons, but some of them are increased community cooperation with police, more neighborhoods that are refusing to tolerate crime, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), and the work our officers are doing every day to build trust and fight crime.

Take, for example, the work of our Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit. They are the enforcement arm of KC NoVA. Their job is to go after those who are at the nexus of violent criminal networks. So far this year, they have recovered 119 guns that were possessed illegally. They’ve also made 38 arrests for felons in possession of firearms (which carries a minimum federal prison sentence of five years with no parole) and 16 arrests for other federal firearm violations. They’ve also arrested 322 people wanted on state-level warrants and another 188 who were under investigation for serious (usually violent) crimes.

Crime is down in Kansas City, but it certainly is not eliminated. We continue to rely on the community to assist us. This assistance comes in any number of ways – from mentoring at-risk children to calling the TIPS Hotline. Continued efforts like those will lead to further crime reductions and safer neighborhoods.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflecting on Sept. 11 and the importance of first responder relationships

I’m sure everyone who is reading this can remember where they were and what they were doing 13 years ago today. I was on the fifth floor of Headquarters serving as acting deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau because the regular deputy chief was on vacation that week. I was looking out the window when the first crash happened. There was a TV in my office, and I looked over and saw it.

There is so much to remember and reflect upon today, but one thing that keeps crossing my mind is how vital the relationships between first responders are. Police officers and firefighters were the ones rushing into the Twin Towers that day when everyone else was rushing away from them. They worked together to get thousands of people to safety. Sadly, hundreds of first responders lost their lives in their attempts to save the lives of others.

While Kansas City never has experienced anything near the scope of those attacks (and I pray we never will), our police officers, firefighters and paramedics enter dangerous situations all the time, often side by side. We are blessed to have two groups of professionals who work so well together in Kansas City.

Dozens and dozens of times each day, KCPD and KCFD join up to serve the people of Kansas City – at car wrecks, when someone has been assaulted, medical emergencies, arsons and so many more. A few weeks ago, we conducted joint active shooter training at City Hall. We know that both our departments would be called upon in such an emergency, and we are fortunate that we enjoy such a good relationship and can offer such a quick and professional response. I thank the members of both departments for all they do for the community.

Off the clock, there are many friendships and much camaraderie between members of our agencies. We donate to each other’s charitable causes and have supported each other through difficult budget times. Firefighters have even come to the aid of our officers when they were being assaulted. We have a solid relationship, and we are always ready to work for the good of the people of Kansas City.

Speaking of the public, we need you to continue to assist us. While today reminds me of the importance of first responders, it’s also a reminder that we must remain vigilant. Always be aware of your surroundings, and report any suspicious behavior you may see. The Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Center’s web site offers some tips on what to look for. We appreciate your help in keeping our community safe.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Senate Bill 656 makes fighting violent crime in Kansas City more difficult

This morning I joined Mayor Sly James, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steven Green and others to speak out about the Missouri Legislature's attempt to override the veto of Senate Bill 656. We met in front of the mayor's childhood home at 44th and Montgall. My grandmother lived just around the corner, and she used to walk me to kindergarten down the street. It was a great neighborhood in which to grow up, and we'd like to make it that way again. This morning, Mayor James said SB 656 will only make our jobs harder. I'm proud of the mayor, prosecutor and everyone else for standing up to this bill.

Here are some of my comments from today's press conference:

Reducing violent crime in our city has been my top priority since I became police chief in 2011. This year, we’re beginning to see some real impact from our efforts and the efforts of our partners and the community. Homicides are down by a third compared to where they have been for the past 50 years.

But the fact remains that consistently 80 to 90 percent of murders in this city are perpetrated with guns. Getting those guns out of the hands of people who should not legally possess them is one of our department’s top priorities. Legislation like Senate Bill 656, however, will make our job more difficult.

We need to maintain the freedom to police our city in the way that works best for our residents. Senate Bill 656 would ban any open carry ordinances, which Kansas City enacted at the end of July. An open carry ban works for a densely populated area like our city.

Allowing open carry would increase calls for service to police, which would affect our response time to other emergency calls. Police chiefs and leaders of cities and towns throughout Missouri should be allowed to decide what will most effectively keep their residents safe. Senate Bill 656 does not allow us to do what we believe is in the best interest of Kansas Citians. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hot Spot Policing is making a difference

I have written about Hot Spot Policing on this blog before, and I wanted to share with you the impact it has had in the two-plus years we’ve been doing it. At the beginning of this year, we nearly doubled the amount of personnel who work in hot spots, which are the small areas of the city where the most violent crime occurs. Every officer, detective and sergeant on this department not in an under-cover position now works six nights a year in a “hot spot.” Essentially, this means there is an extra squad of officers in East, Central and Metro Patrol divisions during their busiest nights every week. In the first half of this year, hot spot personnel worked 7,216 hours. That’s 7,216 hours of additional police service in a six-month period for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from our existing resources.

In 2012, 50 percent of all the city’s homicides occurred in two of our four hot spots. For years, all four areas disproportionately contributed to the number of murders in our city. As of this writing, two of the four hot spots have had zero homicides this year. That is remarkable, and it speaks to the hard work of our officers, as well as the hard work of the community. Overall, Kansas City is down by 24 homicides compared to this date last year.

In the first half of 2012, Hot Spot officers made an impressive amount of positive contacts with residents. Some played football with children, and others helped the victim of a domestic violence stabbing. Some assisted with juvenile issues on the Country Club Plaza and some arrested a man with a fully loaded handgun on drug possession charges right before he walked into a store. Two homicide detectives arrested a robbery suspect. In February, A sergeant attended one of our weekly intelligence-sharing meetings and learned about a robbery pattern along Main Street. That same day, two officers from our Research and Development Division were working hot spots and responded to a robbery call at Pancho’s at 3540 Main. They learned the suspect had likely gone to the 3700 block of Warwick. They waited outside in the cold and snow for an hour until they saw the suspect come out the back door of an apartment building, and he was apprehended. Further investigation found he was the person responsible for the other Main Street robberies.

I greatly appreciate the work our officers, detectives and sergeants are doing in hot spots, as well as the community response to their work. Let’s keep working together so that there someday may be no crime hot spots at all in Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office gets justice for victims and families


Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and her staff have brought justice to hundreds of victims and families in Kansas City, and I greatly value their partnership.

The Prosecutor’s office works with our detectives and officers on a daily basis to hold accountable those who commit crimes, especially violent crimes. Jackson County sends more killers to prison than any other county in Missouri. From 2009-2013, nearly 200 defendants went to prison for manslaughter and murder. That is far more than even St. Louis.

And when someone goes to prison for a violent crime in Jackson County, the state’s own sentencing report data shows they go for a longer time than violent offenders in rural and suburban counties.

In addition to ensuring that those who commit crimes receive the appropriate punishments, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office also is partnering with the community and our department to prevent violent crime before it happens. They have been a key component of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). This focused-deterrence program targets those at the epicenters of criminal networks for aggressive police enforcement and prosecution. Meanwhile, it offers services and resources to those on the fringes of criminal networks who want to seek out a new path away from a life of crime. It’s showing promising results: homicides in Kansas City are down by a third from year-to-date totals in the previous five years.

As I’ve said many times, the criminal justice system needs the support of the community to make our community safe. More violent offenders end up in prison when we work together.

I have confidence in Jean Peters Baker and her staff to take on the toughest cases and see that justice is served in our community. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come see the Police Athletic League under the lights of Arrowhead Stadium

I’ve written about the amazing things our Police Athletic League does for urban-core youth on a number of occasions, and this Thursday, they’re giving some of them an amazing opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The PAL Predators tackle football team will play at halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game at Arrowhead Stadium this Thursday, Aug. 7. The team will be made up of 10- to 12-year old boys, most of whom are playing tackle football for the first time. The PAL team is part of KC United, a sports initiative involving young people from all over the metro area. The goal of KC United is for leaders and mentors throughout the city to use sports to reach young people, part of the same philosophy used at PAL.

The Chiefs’ halftime game was set up by KC United to provide a few of the boys in the program a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand on the field at Arrowhead Stadium. Most of the players in the PAL football program have never been to Arrowhead, so actually playing on the field will be an experience they’ll always remember.

The PAL football program is in its third year of operation. Last year, more than 15 teams played at the PAL Center at 1801 White Ave., and the Center hosted many games. The championship games for four separate age divisions were played under the lights at the PAL field, which was a first for most of the young people in the program. The PAL eighth-grade team last year was undefeated, and the starting quarterback from last year's team is actually starting at quarterback for a local high school team this year as a freshman.

Through generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the PAL field is fully irrigated with a sprinkler system, has stadium lights and is professionally maintained by a local landscaping company. There is a new kitchen/concession area being built at the PAL Center, with most of the new equipment having been donated. The result is the kids are able to play at a very first-rate facility, and teams come in from all over the metro area to play on the PAL field.

Currently, the PAL football program has two tackle football teams, more than a dozen volunteer coaches and approximately 60 players involved. The program has doubled in size from last year, and the quality and caliber of the program is growing each year.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Open carry ordinance is wise

Today, the City Council wisely approved an ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm. My role as Chief of Police is to ensure that residents feel safe and are safe. Allowing people to carry firearms openly within the city not only will cause residents to feel uncomfortable, it also will increase calls for service for someone being armed. Police cannot respond to these calls casually, and this creates a dangerous situation for all.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org