Monday, November 28, 2016

In large and dangerous gun battle, KCPD & others performed with valor and professionalism

An exceptionally large and violent shooting incident in the early morning hours Sunday tested the members of our department on all fronts, from courage to coordination. And I couldn’t be more proud of how we responded.

Here’s what happened: At approximately 2:18 a.m. Nov. 27, officers were called to Gregory & Prospect on the sound of shots. Upon arrival, officers observed suspects actively shooting at each other. Fearing for their safety, one officer fired shots. Due to the gunfire, three vehicles were involved in an accident. While securing that scene, officers heard numerous shots fired in their immediate area, for several minutes. Officers saw vehicles near the initial scene involved in a rolling shoot-out. Due to continuous gunfire and an active scene, KCPD requested assistance from police around the metro area. Law enforcement from numerous surrounding agencies responded and assisted with the incident, which spanned from 70th to 72nd streets, Prospect to Brooklyn. Seven people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Six have now been treated and released. No officers were injured during the incident. At this time one suspect stated he was shot by police and was treated for minor injuries.

This incident endangered the lives of hundreds of people. Much of the rolling gun battle took place on residential streets. It covered eight square blocks. Numerous houses were struck with bullets, and it is incredibly fortunate that no one inside them was hurt. Shots continued to be fired while police tried to aid those who were already shot. Those firing these shots had no regard for the life or safety of others. As I said in my previous post, this altercation didn’t arise from nowhere. Someone knew a dispute was brewing, and they didn’t tell us. Someone had to see at least one of these suspects angry and armed, and no one called until the bullets started flying. Police alone cannot stop this violence. We need your help to intervene.

That said, the police response to this incredibly dangerous incident is one of which all Kansas City, Mo., and metro-area residents should be proud. Much of that started with excellent direction and coordination from dispatchers. The amount of information that was coming in and the efficiency with which they distributed it was remarkable. Even with eight assisting outside agencies, they worked quickly and professionally to get everyone what and where they needed and kept track of all responding personnel. They truly are a credit to emergency telecommunicators everywhere.

On the ground, our officers rushed toward the danger. This was an incredibly volatile and dangerous situation with multiple active shooters, and the officers responded without hesitation. Where others would flee, they went right into the hail of gunfire. They risked their own lives and safety to protect the residents of our city, and their valor has not gone unnoticed. Everyone who responded to the Gregory and Prospect area that night showed up ready to work and with a positive attitude, even knowing the danger and the magnitude of the task ahead.

We also enjoyed an exceptional response from the metro-wide assist-the-officer call issued. Officers from eight different agencies responded to assist with everything from holding the perimeter of the incident to protecting multiple crime scenes to going to different hospitals where suspects/victims were taken. These officers were eager and ready to help, and I want to make sure everyone in the metro area knows what an asset they were. They came from the following agencies:

Missouri
Ferrelview Police
Independence Police
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
Missouri State Highway Patrol
North Kansas City Police
Raytown Police


Kansas
Leawood, Kan., Police
Prairie Village, Kan., Police

I also want to thank all the responding Crime Scene technicians and detectives. The 8-square-block crime scene they had to process and canvass early Sunday morning was only the beginning of their duties. Their thorough and professional work will ensure that those involved in this violent criminal act will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

While the act of violence early Sunday morning was awful, I could not have asked for a better or more professional team to handle it. I apologize if I left anyone out. The response was so seamless; it can be difficult to discern everyone who was involved. I just know I am very proud of everyone who responded, and the residents of Kansas City should be, as well.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A majority of this year's homicides could not have been prevented by law enforcement

As of today, 107 people have been killed in a homicide in Kansas City this year. That is a significantly higher amount than at this time in years past. But what is different about this year is the relationship between victims and suspects. Contrary to popular belief, a majority of these homicides could not have been prevented by law enforcement. No amount of officers on patrol can stop a simmering family dispute or someone who chooses to end a petty argument with a firearm.

Through initiatives like the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, we have made a significant impact on what we call group-related violence. This violence arises out of criminal groups’ illegal activities and cycles of retaliation. (Some might refer to these groups as “gangs,” but not all of them are.) When KC NoVA fully came to fruition in 2014, Kansas City experienced its lowest homicide rate in more than 40 years, with 82 murders. And you know what? The group-related homicide rate has remained relatively consistent since then. The work of KC NoVA and its community partners is keeping that in check with everything from social services to strict enforcement on members of particular groups in which a violent crime occurs.

But there are so many other homicides we can do nothing about. Consider the two people murdered this past weekend. One was a son who killed his father. The other was a woman who got into an argument with another woman and asked her boyfriend to go over and confront the woman she was fighting with. It appears the boyfriend shot up a car full of people, not just the woman in question. One died, and three others were transported to hospitals in critical condition. The only way law enforcement could have intervened in either of those situations was if someone notified us. And we are begging you to let us know when something like this is occurring or about to occur.

In so many of this year’s homicides, someone had to know that something was amiss. Someone had to know a dispute was brewing. Someone had to know that their friend or family member was angry and armed. If someone had called us, officers might have been able to stop the homicides from ever taking place. As City Council Member Alissia Canady said at our Board of Police Commissioners meeting this morning, “Everyone is looking for us to do something, but it needs to come from the community.”

We know the motive in 53 of this year’s 107 homicide cases. Of those 53 homicide motives we know, 24 of them were arguments. Instead of resolving a conflict through discussion and compromise, poor anger management skills and easy access to guns have led to the death of at least 24 people in Kansas City this year. Again, in many of these cases, multiple people knew that a conflict was at hand, but no one reached out to law enforcement to ask for help in changing the eventual outcome.

The second-most frequent motive that we know of in this year’s homicides has been domestic violence, with 14 cases. Two of those were murder-suicides. Not all were intimate partner violence. Several involved parents and children. Domestic violence rarely erupts into homicidal levels of violence out of the blue. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship – even if it is with your own child – please contact us. We can work with victims to get them the resources they need to stay safe.

Seven of this year’s homicide victims have been 16 or younger. Several of them were young children – innocent bystanders who were victims of adults unable to resolve conflicts in a civil manner. Their loss should outrage us all.

With homicides up over recent years, and many people asking us, “why?” I encourage everyone in Kansas City to ask themselves that question. I ask everyone to consider what your role is in decreasing the violence in our community because you have much better reach and influence than we do over the people you know. If you know someone is angry, unstable and armed, tell us. If you know a conflict is about to escalate into violence, tell us. If you know someone who is being victimized by a violent abuser, tell us. It’s the only way police can intervene.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Monday, October 24, 2016

Police deserve same raises as employees of other City services

We are always working to make the Kansas City Missouri Police Department a first-class law enforcement agency with members of the highest quality to serve the people of our community. I want to ensure our department recruits and retains public servants of the highest caliber who reflect the make-up of our city.

Numerous things have made that more difficult in recent years: the increased scrutiny police are under nationwide, the increased danger they are facing (officers killed by firearms so far this year are up 47 percent compared to this date last year), and issues of morale and pay.

As I wrote here earlier this year, we have eliminated more than 100 law enforcement and 100 non-sworn positions to stay within our budget. Despite these efforts to ensure police are not taking an outsize portion of the City budget, it appears the police department is slated to receive the lowest raises of any City services over the next three years.

In the City’s Five-Year Citywide Business Plan, which Council Members are set to vote on Thursday, employees of all other City services are slated to receive raises ranging from 2.5 to 4.7 percent each of the next three years. During that time, KCPD members are only set to receive 2 percent raises each year. The members of our department deserve equal pay treatment with the employees of other City services. The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners adopted a resolution stating the need for this parity in 2011.

The Olathe, Kansas, Police Department conducted a police compensation analysis in May of this year, comparing the salaries and benefits of area public safety departments. That showed KCPD officers had the highest starting salary in the metro area, but we fell to 10th place out of the 12 agencies compared for officers who had reached their top pay step.

In an urban environment with high workloads, significant violent crime and intensive scrutiny, it can be difficult enough to retain high-quality officers and non-sworn staff. A financial plan that does not value police employees as much as employees of other City services has the potential to negatively impact police morale and employee retention.

To continue to serve our city with the highest-quality employees, I support KCPD members receiving annual salary increases on par with those in City services.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Officer-involved shootings, from training to investigation

With officer-involved shootings in the national spotlight the last few years, I want to share how the members of the Kansas City Police Department train to deal with potential threats and how to avoid them, what happens if a shooting does take place, what’s made public and what isn’t, and how we will work with the FBI, prosecutors and U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate.

Training
I’ll start with our training. In the last couple of years, we have developed and implemented ground-breaking training on how to de-escalate situations so we can avoid having to make a shoot/don’t-shoot decision. Police departments from around the nation have contacted us about this training so they could give it to their officers. I discussed this in a post last year about officers’ well-being:

“The instructor of the course, Sergeant Ward Smith, describes the idea well: ‘I can remain in this same position, and I’ll have to use force. But if I use tactics and training and think my way through this, I can pull out of this location and avoid shooting it out with someone.’ This is a change of mindset for many. Throughout the history of law enforcement, we’ve had the idea of ‘never back down, never retreat.’ We are encouraging and training our officers to use critical thinking and problem solving to avoid a situation in which they have to shoot someone to protect themselves. This is easier said than done, because oftentimes situations unfold rapidly, leaving officers seconds or less to make decisions. Although we've stressed critical thinking and problem solving in the past, with Sergeant Smith's training, we’re emphasizing the idea that there may be other options.”

Our training staff developed more training along these same lines this year. Our officers now must qualify on their firearms twice annually. At their first qualifying sessions, they learned about the importance of proximity – both physical and emotional – in preventing the escalation of a situation. This article provides more information about what went into that training.

At their second qualifying session this year, officers are learning how to provide first aid to anyone they might have hurt (also discussed in the above linked article). A big part of this is determining whether a situation is stable and if an armed subject still poses a threat. On many occasions, an injured subject will fall to the ground still clutching and able to fire a gun. But if this is not the case, our officers are being instructed to provide emergency first aid to anyone injured by police use of force until an ambulance can arrive. We did this in an incident on Aug. 27. The suspect survived.

Even with all the de-escalation, proximity and first aid training in the world, however, officers may be forced to use lethal force against someone, resulting in fatal wounds. No one wants that to happen, but police must protect themselves and others.


Shoot/Don’t Shoot
Recently, a suspect pointed a gun at our officers, and the officers did not shoot. This is not unusual. Kansas City Missouri Police encounter shoot/don’t shoot scenarios often, and they make split-second, life-or-death decisions in those situations with varying outcomes. No situation is the same. Although the officers in the most recent incident did not shoot, they would have been legally justified if they did. The suspect was threatening their lives by pointing an assault rifle at them. Based on their training and experience, other officers might have chosen to shoot, and they still would have responded to the threat appropriately, according to the law and our department’s policy.

No officer ever wants to take a life, and we are training to avoid such situations whenever possible. But if an officer or resident’s life is threatened, we must respond to protect ourselves and others.


The Investigation
If an officer-involved shooting does take place, several things happen to ensure a thorough investigation, beginning at the scene of the incident. Multiple people respond to the scene of an officer-involved shooting, including the county prosecutor or someone from his or her office, our lead legal adviser, the commander of the Internal Affairs Unit, crime scene investigators, usually myself and the police shooting team, among others. Nothing is done in a vacuum.

The police shooting team is a squad of specialized detectives charged with preparing the investigative case file that will go to the prosecutor. As with any other shooting case, they collect victim and witness statements, gather evidence and present their findings to the prosecutor. After submission to the prosecutor’s office for their review on whether charges are warranted against the officer, the case file also is reviewed by Internal Affairs, our Notable Events Review Panel, training staff and commanders. There are multiple checks and balances to ensure the investigation is fair and unbiased. It also provides opportunity for analysis on whether additional training is warranted.  

We made an even bigger step toward transparency and independent investigation of officer-involved shootings last December when we announced an unprecedented memorandum of understanding between our department, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We already were doing everything covered by the MOU, but this memorandum formalized our procedures.

I have wanted to put this agreement in writing since I became Chief of Police. I initiated the drafting of this MOU and am pleased with the transparency and confidence it provides to other segments of our community.

U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson explained the agreement at a press conference on Dec. 9, 2015. The agreement proactively addresses allegations of the excessive use of force by a KCPD officer, marking an extraordinary partnership between local and federal law enforcement. As soon as there is a notification of such an allegation, the matter can referred to the FBI to make an unbiased assessment.

U.S. Attorney Dickinson explained the rest of the process:

“In some cases, the FBI may determine that a federal civil rights investigation is warranted and refer the matter to my office. In other cases, the FBI may determine that a state criminal investigation is warranted and refer the matter to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, or the FBI may determine that police officers acted lawfully and appropriately, and no further investigation is warranted.

“Whatever the outcome, the public can rest assured that any and all allegations of excessive use of force by KCPD officers are being fairly investigated and justly resolved.”



What Is and Isn’t Public
In terms of public accessibility, a police shooting investigative case file is treated like any other investigative case file. No part of it is made public until the case is fully adjudicated. We don’t release the name of any suspect until he or she is charged. Police officers involved in a shooting are treated the same way: their names aren’t released unless they are charged with a crime in a court of law.

And just as we would not release video evidence in any other shooting case to protect the integrity of the investigation, we do not release police dash-cam or any other video evidence in an officer-involved shooting case until it is adjudicated and closed.

In fact, the Missouri Legislature nearly unanimously passed a bill this year restricting public access to police video, and Gov. Jay Nixon signed it into law. The measure blocks the public from accessing footage recorded by body-worn cameras or police dash-cam while investigations are ongoing. Once an investigation is over, any footage recorded inside a home, school or medical facility remains largely off-limits.



Let me be clear that no officer wants to be put in a situation in which he or she must decide to shoot someone. But suspects do threaten the lives of officers, and officers must employ their training and experience to decide how to best protect themselves and others. Sometimes this means they must fire their service weapon to stop the threat.

I take pride in how well-trained our officers are and am confident they have received some of the most cutting edge instruction in the country on how to navigate a possible shoot/no-shoot situation. I also am confident in the integrity and accuracy of our investigative processes. Multiple levels of review – both internally and by the FBI and U.S. Attorney – assure our community that the actions of any KCPD officer involved in a shooting are comprehensively reviewed for adherence to the law and department policy. The people of Kansas City deserve nothing less.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I'm proud of our officers & will keep addressing difficult issues

There has been some concern about my recent comments to the Kansas City Star regarding police-involved shootings of black males. I’d like to point out the comments in the 2-minute video on the Star’s web site were filmed three weeks ago and were a very short portion of a much longer interview and article that are scheduled to be published soon. I think those additional pieces will lend greater context to what I said. 

I’d also like to welcome anyone with concerns about anything I say or do to contact me directly. I’d love to discuss the issues one-on-one and perhaps provide more context and the reasons behind my thinking. 

I do respect others’ opinions, and I apologize if anyone was offended by my comments about police-involved shootings of black males. I said some of those incidents were the result of unreasonable fear and poor training on behalf of the police. I was in no way referencing any particular incident or any particular department. Over the last several years, we have seen many officer-involved shootings of black males throughout the country. These have created outrage, and to ignore these sentiments and give no thought to what police can do to improve the situation would be irresponsible. 

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is a very good department composed of dedicated men and women who regularly confront danger with courage and difficult situations with discernment and compassion. But just because we are good does not mean we can’t be better. We have initiated new training in the last few years to address tactical disengagement and redeployment, appropriate threat assessment, and to cope with mental health issues that could impact the way we do our jobs. (You can read more about the latest training in our department’s June newsletter​.) 

We have put great effort toward more positive interactions with other segments of the community. Because it’s not just police who can have unreasonable fears: Other members of the community can have unreasonable fears of police. We’re working together to overcome those. 

Other police departments in the metro area and nationwide are engaging in similar training and outreach. My comments in no way were meant to demonize law enforcement. It’s a profession for which I hold very deep respect and of which I am proud to call myself a member for 31 years. I respect those who serve and the labor organizations who represent them, as well. But police in the United States are facing unprecedented scrutiny, and we have some issues to work through. Talking about those issues may be uncomfortable, but it is needed, so I will continue to have those discussions. I will continue to address the changes that need to be made to improve the service of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, and what other members of the community can do to improve the safety of their neighborhoods. 

I am proud of all the members of KCPD. They are dedicated public servants who, in the face of some of the most difficult situations in our city, strive to live out our mission of protecting and serving with honor and integrity.

Monday, July 18, 2016

To our family and friends

Few people in the country right now are as worried when their loved ones go to work as the families of those who work in law enforcement. With the continued violence against police in our country, their spouses, children, parents, siblings and friends are experiencing anxiety and fear. 

I want these loved ones to know that you are on my heart. I care about everyone in this city, and when you hurt, I hurt. The emotions you are experiencing are not to be taken lightly. We have not forgotten about our department members’ loved ones. In fact, you are so important that we know your family members can’t do their jobs without you. It’s important that they come to work each day knowing that someone cares about them and their well-being. It makes the rest of what our department members must face on their shifts much easier.

And I’m not just talking about the family and friends of officers on the street, either. Every member on this department – sworn and non-sworn – is facing new stresses and fears. Those often come home with us and impact our families. KCPD families, please know that I understand what you’re going through. I’ve made the wellness of our members one of my top priorities as Chief of Police. They cannot serve our city effectively if they and their home lives are not OK. As Chief, I experience anxiety for our people, and that goes beyond just who’s on the payroll. It extends to their loved ones, as well.

I went to all six of our patrol division stations yesterday to visit our on-duty officers. I encouraged them – and I encourage all department members – to take time in their shifts to communicate with their family and loved ones. I want them to take some time and stop and call someone who cares about them. It’s important not only for them but also their families.

We, as members of a law enforcement agency, need support and care during these difficult and scary times, but so do our loved ones. I just want these families and friends to know the KCPD and I recognize your vital role and your need to be supported and encouraged, as well. Thank you for all you do.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, July 8, 2016

Statement on recent violence against police officers


The events in Dallas last night were horrific. I know the hearts of every member of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department – and the hearts of police around the nation – are very heavy today. In the words of Dallas Police Chief David Brown this morning, “Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken. Please pray for our strength during this trying time.”

We know those officers were killed running toward gunshots. That is what police do, and I know our officers would do the same because they have. I am proud of the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. I am proud of their bravery and courage. I am proud of the relationships they have forged with other members of our community. I am proud of the way we work together with the other residents of our city to improve the quality of life for everyone. I am proud of our officers’ compassion and judgment. I am proud of their willingness to learn new and better ways of doing things, to embrace change and to protect and serve their community when faced with more scrutiny and danger than ever before. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

KC NoVA is building foundation for change in urban core

As of today, Kansas City has experienced 46 homicides, which is a dozen more than at this point in the past two years. (It is on par, however, with where we were in 2012, so it’s by no means unprecedented.) I am as frustrated by this as anyone in this city. Lives are being lost senselessly.

The responsibility of stopping the violence does not rest solely on the police department, but we must and do play a role. Several people have asked me if the number of homicides means the Kansas City No Violence Alliance has failed. The answer to that is a definitive “no.”

I wrote about KC NoVA’s accomplishments in February, but it bears repeating that KC NoVA isn’t a unit of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. This multi-agency collaboration is currently composed of the KCPD, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Missouri Department of Corrections, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the City of Kansas City and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

KC NoVA marks the first time all of these entities have been at the same table – the first time we have shared intelligence and resources. This multi-agency collaboration uses police-related technology and front line patrol and investigative elements; identifies violent networks in Kansas City’s urban core and the membership within each network driving the violence. This gang- and group-related violence network intelligence is stored in the Law Enforcement Resource Center and is available to KCPD personnel and all NoVA partners.

It’s worth noting that KC NoVA only deals in gang- or group-related violence, and not all violent crime in Kansas City. It does not track or try to intervene in violent acts that arise from domestic relationships, arguments gone wrong or narcotics-related violence (although certainly there is overlap between people involved in those types of violence and NoVA clients).

Once those involved in violent criminal networks are identified, the NoVA collaboration works to reach the membership with a message that violence no longer will be tolerated; there is assistance available for those wanting to escape the life of violence; but choosing to remain a member of a violent network that continues its involvement in perpetrating violence in our city will result in certain, swift and severe enforcement actions.

About 67 percent of homicides in our city are associated with the groups NoVA investigates. To put that in perspective, the national homicide rate for all people is 2.2 per 100,000. In Kansas City, it’s about 22.2 per 100,000. But for members of the group NoVA has identified, the homicide rate is 550 per 100,000.

We know we have correctly identified the people who are responsible for the majority of Kansas City’s violent crime. So what are we doing about it? Everyone first must understand it has taken decades and generations for today’s culture of violence in the urban-core to form. That is not going to change overnight or even in two years. With KC NoVA, we are building the foundation for change. The impact of NoVA might not be visible in the homicide numbers right now, but I am confident that the relationships and processes are finally in place to turn the tide of violence. At a recent meeting for the Byrne Project of KC NoVA – which focuses specifically on the Prospect Corridor – a resident stood up and said he’d seen more positive changes in the neighborhood in the last few months than he had in all the years he’d lived there.

NoVA proactively is asking community members to enter into violence prevention contracts when investigators feel there is a risk for retaliatory violence. Patrol officers have been trained and work with NoVA and community partners to interrupt cycles of violence. This has never been done before.

Another example of how we’re fostering positive change is the new partnership we’ve forged with the Missouri Department of Corrections. Through this, we are reaching people who are in prison and on probation and parole. NoVA officers and social workers even are going into prisons and letting inmates know that there is hope to come back into their communities, be productive and leave behind the activities that got them incarcerated.

A key piece of KC NoVA is that social service piece. More than 130 people right now are receiving services from NoVA that range from addiction treatment to job skills training. From just January to May of this year, NoVA provided more than 1,100 job leads to clients. Frankly, I’d rather employ and educate our way out of violent crime than arrest our way out of it.

That’s why NoVA leaders are now in talks with the Kansas City School District to implement after-school programs. The hope is these programs will provide additional educational opportunities while keeping kids from being absorbed into a life of criminal activity. Some may call it extracurricular activities, but we call it future violence prevention.

In addition to strict enforcement, these are the kinds of things NoVA is doing. While homicide rates have risen precipitously in other cities (as yesterday’s report from the National Institutes of Justice shows), they have remained steady here. Of course I want there to be fewer murders and acts of violence, but it’s going to take time to turn around a culture of violence acceptance that has been years in the making. KC NoVA has engaged people from around the city to embark on that change, and I think the fruit it bears will be evident for years to come.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.