Wednesday, March 7, 2018

City and KCPD work toward master plan for downtown parking

The good news: Downtown Kansas City is growing and thriving. More and more people are choosing to live, work and play in our city center. This has led to an influx of residential units, businesses, entertainment options and more. But as more people come downtown, most bring their cars with them. More people equal more cars, and we’re working with City government to accommodate increased parking needs.

We’ve heard from several downtown business owners recently that their customers can’t park at their businesses because downtown residents have overstayed their time in parking spots. We’ve heard from downtown residents that people attending special events have taken up their parking spots. And we’ve heard from people attending downtown events that they can’t find a place to park. We’re working with the City on a master plan for downtown parking. One of the recommendations is the hiring of 10 additional KCPD parking control officers to increase enforcement.

At present, we have just four parking control officers and two supervisors for the entire city. They have worked their tails off to keep up with complaints, special events and more, but there just weren’t enough of them to keep up with growing downtown parking needs. These 10 new parking control officers will concentrate on downtown, only. We still are hiring for these positions, and we encourage Kansas City residents interested in serving their city in this capacity to apply.

To keep parking spaces turning over for everyone who needs them downtown, we will be stepping enforcement up considerably with the help of the new parking control officers. We’re not going to start handing out thousands more parking tickets overnight, though. We’ll begin a period of public education this month, which will include issuing a lot of warnings in lieu of tickets. This will allow people to develop a downtown parking plan that will be fair to everyone and allow businesses to be successful.

One notable change: effective March 1, off-street public parking lots in the City Market turned into paid lots at a rate of $1 an hour. The City Market Square lot will continue to be free and available for short-term parking, but the time limit has been reduced from three hours to two hours.

The renewed vibrancy of our downtown is exciting, but it comes with some growing pains. We look forward to working with everyone to make parking accessible to as many people as possible in the heart of KC.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

With your help, we can work to prevent mass shootings

On Valentine’s Day, the terror we all dread returned to an unsuspecting school. In a matter of minutes lives were lost, others were shattered, and the hearts of people throughout the nation broke for people in both categories. Everyone hopes and prays that such a tragedy will never happen, especially not to children. KCPD, just like any other law enforcement agency in this country, would like to be able to guarantee the safety of all school children. Unfortunately, that’s a guarantee we can’t make.

Just this past week, Kansas City Missouri Police have investigated two school shooting threats. Both times, we tracked down the originators of the threats and interviewed them. Because of the unfortunate choices they made, the juveniles who made these threats may face consequences. 

Like this past week, there have been many times that KCPD has received information about a possible mass-shooting threat. This usually comes in the form of a call to our department or a call for service to a location where someone is concerned about the mental state of another person. Many times, officers check into the concern and find it doesn’t pose a danger. No one has made a threat or taken any actions or made any plans to harm to others. But if there is more information, such as photos, social media posts, text messages or something else that adds to the concern, our patrol officers then contact detectives to conduct more research and investigation in an attempt to determine the level of threat. Once law enforcement personnel feel - and yes, sometimes it comes down to good police instinct - that there is a possible danger, many different police elements may get involved. Our Law Enforcement Resource Center, Crisis Intervention Team officers, and detectives from different units all will work together to investigate. This will include interviewing friends and family of the concerned person as well as making contact with that individual to determine their state of mind and capabilities. 

Even though it is impossible to prove a mass shooting didn’t happen, I do know that KCPD has come across individuals who were in a bad state and were capable of carrying out an attack. Many thanks go out to the family members, friends and even co-workers who have stepped up and reported the concerns they have had. Just one call or comment to an officer or detective can make all the difference. It can stop mass shootings and save lives. Without that partnership, KCPD will not be effective - not just in preventing mass-casualty events but in pretty much every other facet of public safety.

The day before the Parkland shooting, the FBI issued a report about the marked increase of mass shooting incidents in the United States in the last five years. Preliminarily, the totals for 2017 are higher than each of the previous five years. Last year, the report states, there were 29 active shooter incidents in 15 states, which was an increase from 20 incidents in each of the previous years since 2014.

No one wants to think about a mass shooting occur here, in Kansas City. As I have previously mentioned, KCPD members not only must think about such an occurrence; we have to train for it. Every officer on our department is well trained and conducts practical exercises for such a horrible event. KCPD also has conducted joint training exercises with the fire department to be in the best position to save lives if a mass shooting incident were to occur.

After the Parkland shooting, our Tactical Response Team officers reached out to every school district in Kansas City, Mo., to see if any schools and their staffs wanted to undergo the free active shooter training our department offers. (Many already have done so in prior years.) If you work for a charter or parochial school that is not part of a district, contact our Tactical Enforcement Division Office at 816-413-3597 if you would like such training at your school. The training is available for other organizations, as well. Call to inquire.

With the right partnerships, anything is possible, including the prevention of a mass shooting. I encourage anyone who is legitimately concerned about an individual to not set your feelings aside without contacting KCPD or another law enforcement agency. Together we can keep each other and our children safe.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Social workers coming to all patrol divisions

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department has secured funding to embed a social worker at all six of our patrol division stations.

The Hall Family Foundation is providing $640,000, and the City of Kansas City is matching that with $470,000 to fund six social workers and a program coordinator for the next three years. The social workers’ primary function is to provide support and act as a resource for officers through community outreach, support and service referrals.

As I said in an earlier post, we are willing to forge nontraditional partnerships that work to decrease crime in our city. People who don’t have their basic needs met will always look for alternative means. The KCPD is striving to assist with those alternative means, as opposed to criminal means.

A board member of the Police Foundation of Kansas City had a connection to a board member of the Hall Family Foundation. Through that, our current social worker, Gina English, and I were able to present the police department’s proposal. We are so glad the Hall Family Foundation chose to fund this project and that the City realized its worth and is providing matching funding. I truly believe this will have a significant impact on crime in our community, and I’m excited to see what this public-private partnership can accomplish.

We aim to have the social workers in place by early March. They will work out of patrol division stations, attend weekly crime meetings and communicate regularly with officers about residents in need of assistance, especially early intervention for at-risk youth.

The goals of the social worker program are to:
  1. Cultivate a shared mission for service providers to work together, decreasing gaps in services and strengthening each other’s ability to influence people who need help and act as a safeguard in times of crisis.
  2. Provide prevention support for youth identified as mid-level risk due to past police contact, criminal activity or escalation in crime type.
  3. Increase the public’s overall satisfaction with police by offering another level of customer service and problem-solving actions to the Police Department. 
As I’ve said, there are a lot of people dealing with issues in Kansas City that are frankly not the job of police to address: family problems, poverty, addiction and more. But those very issues are what create crime problems in our community. Social workers can address such issues in a way that brings lasting, positive change. For example, Gina English, the social worker who pioneered our program at Central Patrol Division, did more to stop the problem of youth congregating on the Country Club Plaza and becoming destructive and violent than police ever could. She really talked to the teens there and then created a diversion and citizenship program for them.

Gina will serve as the coordinator for the expanded program. The new social workers will be expected to continue her work with juveniles in detention and in Municipal Court as well as building a diverse network of community resources. They also always must maintain KCPD’s duty to protect and serve the entire community, placing public safety above all.

A job description for these contract positions will be posted soon. In the meantime, interested persons with a degree in social work can e-mail

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Our 2018 goals: decrease violent crime, increase community involvement

Last week, Mayor James and I released a blog that focused on what is occurring to reduce crime in Kansas City. This week, I would like to expand on what resources and initiatives KCPD is exploring to increase community involvement while focusing on violent crime.

At the conclusion of 2017, many media outlets were asking local officials, including the police department, about the upward trend in violent crime, specifically homicides. One hundred and fifty homicides were disheartening for officials and citizens alike. Many times I struggle with the release of numbers knowing that each number represents a person, a family and friends who have all suffered a great loss. Their loss can never be adequately articulated, but doing so by just a number seems even more callous. Yet as a society, this is the matrix by which we measure crime: raw numbers or percentages.

I am optimistic as Kansas City starts 2018. Slowly this city is starting to realize that the crime in Kansas City needs to be addressed from several different angles, not just through the police and enforcement. Some of the partnerships that have great potential in 2018: 
  • The Police Foundation of Kansas City, a private/public partnership that is bringing cutting-edge technology to this city to help reduce violent crime. 
  • Soon there will be social workers at every patrol division. This will be another private/public partnership aimed at increasing the ability of field officers to follow through on issues they find while working in the field. 
  • The TIPS Hotline, part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, recently raised the reward money for information on homicides from $2,000 to $5,000. 
All of these partnerships are working to reduce violent crime, however, KCPD has not stopped looking at other avenues. We are currently researching how the department can better connect with our city’s youth. Our city’s future successes or failures depend on them. Planning is occurring for a summer camp, and several other youth based initiatives are also being explored. You can read more detail about what we’re planning in the previous post.

As I mentioned above, we cannot enforce our way out of crime. But I want to send a clear message to those who decide to commit acts of violence in Kansas City that KCPD and our criminal justice partners are working harder and smarter to make sure you are identified, arrested and handed off to the courts. KCPD has always focused efforts on those who we know commit crime. In 2018, we will continue to do so with our partners, but we will be doing so with a new sense of urgency. The uptick in homicides has led to more suspects being identified. Since December 1, KCPD has arrested 18 homicide suspects. I believe the increased sharing of criminal intelligence information, with a new sense of urgency, has led to this increase in homicide arrests. The TIPS Hotline has also paid its first $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in a homicide.

The year 2018 will also bring an opportunity to increase the relationship between neighborhoods and KCPD. KCPD soon will expand the number of Community Interaction Officers. This closely follows the model that the New York City Police Department has used to help neighborhoods become strong and vibrant instead of lacking in leadership and structure. In part because of these neighborhood-focused efforts, New York City has been experiencing an unprecedented drop in violent crime. Our Community Interaction Officers will look to strengthen not only relationships but the bond between neighborhoods and the police department. This will help to create the level of trust that is needed to form a true partnership.

Twelve short months from now will let us know if the aforementioned direction, cooperation, initiatives, and enforcement activities have reduced crime. The executive staff at KCPD will continue to evaluate, research and implement strategies that work on reducing violent crime so Kansas City is no longer on the ten most-violent cities list. That is just the first big hurdle toward the goal of making Kansas City the safest city in America.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It takes a community

Co-authored by Mayor Sly James and Chief Smith

If you’re like both of us, you look at Kansas City’s crime statistics and wince. Maybe you get angry. Maybe you want someone or something to blame. We get it. We do, too.

But crime is complex. Criminal behavior usually isn’t driven by just one thing, and we won’t be able to bring down crime in our city with quick fixes. We believe 2018 can be the year that our neighborhoods see true relief from violence, but it will take more than anything the police or the city government alone can provide. It will take you. We need each Kansas Citian to prioritize crime reduction in our community. There is no substitute for an engaged citizenry when it comes to fighting crime.

The men and women of law enforcement rely on tips and information from members of our community to help solve crimes. If you see something, hear something or know something, do something. Both of us are powerless to help make our neighborhoods safer without your help. To that end, KCPD recently increased the TIPS hotline reward to $5,000.

While police and city government can’t fix the crime problem alone, we are doing a great deal to address it. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) has been working hard to stop the recent spate of homicides. In fact, the percentage of homicides resulting from group-related violence – KC NoVA’s focus – has dropped steadily since the group started in 2013. However, overall homicide numbers are still going up, and we’re trying a number of things to stop that.

KC NoVA is bringing all of our city’s key players to the table to address the very small percentage of people who are responsible for a lot of the violence in Kansas City. Every morning, representatives from a host of agencies meet in person and by conference call to talk about what crime happened in the last 24 hours and any intelligence that was developed. The meeting is led by KCPD’s Gang Intelligence Unit and includes a variety of internal units at the KCPD as well as our local, state and federal partners. These heavy hitters work together every day to identify the most dangerous people in our community and how we can best arrest and prosecute them.

We also work to rehabilitate those who want to leave a life of crime. NoVA client advocates presently work with more than 100 people who want to avoid criminal behavior and be productive members of society. Advocates provide everything from conflict resolution skills to substance abuse treatment to job training. NoVA partners also have made nearly 100 visits to individuals who were incarcerated as the result of NoVA enforcement and worked with them to prepare for a law-abiding life on the outside. It’s still early, but their rate of recidivism appears to be significantly lower than average.

The Ruskin area in south Kansas City had recently experienced an elevated level of violent crime and quality of life issues. NoVA partners knocked on 697 homes in the Ruskin Heights neighborhood this past year to inform hundreds of families that police presence would be increasing, violence would not be tolerated and resources were available to help families get their loved ones back on the straight and narrow. The Violent Crimes Enforcement Division along with our NoVA partners is working with community members to identify specific neighborhood problems and concerns. We have already observed a reduction in the criminal activity occurring. Each year, we examined the date range of August through December. We found that crime categories, including aggravated assault, domestic violence, armed robbery, and strong-arm robbery, collectively increased from 2014 through 2016. Crime rose 56 percent between 2014 and 2015 and another 11 percent between 2015 and 2016. However, data show a 10 percent decrease for the same date range in 2017 when compared to 2016. Police will continue to work with City Codes Enforcement Officers to address blighted homes. The goal is to improve the neighborhood, reduce criminal activity and restore resident satisfaction. We intend to replicate this geographical targeted policing into other areas of the city.

Teens in Transition is another program of KC NoVA. Funded by the offices of the Mayor and Jackson County Prosecutor, this program has brought 40 teens at risk for violence together each of the past three summers. Led by Michael Toombs of Arts Tech, they learn conflict resolution skills, undergo job training and art therapy. The whole time, KCPD’s school resource officers work alongside the teens to build relationships and trust. The kids who graduate from the program have significantly fewer negative contacts with police than they did before they started.

You’ll notice many of these crime-fighting efforts are less about going out and arresting people and more about giving them the resources they need to prevent them from turning to crime. One way KCPD is doing that is through a social worker embedded at Central Patrol Division. Here’s one great example: For years, officers have tried to enforce away issues with teens congregating on the Country Club Plaza in the summer and violating laws. This past summer, the social worker, Gina English, went to the Plaza and surveyed the kids about why they were there. After some citations for curfew violation the initial weekend the summer curfew went into effect, the problems on the Plaza decreased that summer. Gina identified the issues that drove idle youth to congregating and breaking laws, and those underlying issues were addressed by her social work and the responsible citizenship classes Gina taught to the children and parents who’d been cited for curfew violations. It was more effective than anything police had done to address the problem. To read more about what social work is accomplishing in Central Patrol Division, check out Chief Smith’s blog from last week. Like the client advocates at KC NoVA, social work is proving to be an innovative solution to public safety problems.

We’re about to see even more of this happen in Kansas City. The Police Department has just secured funding to embed a social worker at all six patrol division stations. More information on that will be forthcoming.

The way the police department shares and acts on crime information also has changed in a way that increases accountability. A sergeant skilled at data and intelligence analysis provides both the patrol divisions and Chief Smith with detailed weekly crime data and maps, pointing out patterns, recent parolees and concerning issues that need follow-up. Every week, officers and commanders assigned to each of the city’s six patrol divisions meet to discuss crime issues and neighborhood concerns in their area. Then every Wednesday, the commanders report how they’re working within their divisions to address those issues. They also discuss how they can partner with other internal divisions like Violent Crimes, Violent Crimes Enforcement, Special Operations, Traffic and Homeland Security and bring to bear the resources of those specialized units to stop the crime.

We understand the need for our law enforcement community to look like, and to understand, the people who live in our neighborhoods. We’re both committed to increasing the diversity of our police force. There is a KCPD recruitment fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Rd. Department recruiters will be on site taking information from people interested in serving with KCPD and answering questions about employment. We’d love for community members from a wide variety of backgrounds to come apply.

Striving for a diverse workforce is nothing new for KCPD, and it’s something we are always trying to enhance. In 2017, KCPD was out recruiting everywhere from urban core high schools and churches to the Bosnian Community Picnic to LGBT festivals to universities and military bases. Among a host of other diversity recruitment initiatives, KCPD has been working with Kansas City Public Schools to build a program for interested students to learn about law enforcement with the goal of having them eventually join the department. In the coming months, KCPD will be operating a career center at the Manual Career and Technical Center in downtown. The purpose is to develop and mentor young people so those students looking for jobs after they graduate from high school can pass the background examination and go into civilian positions on the KCPD (such as desk clerks, building maintenance and other spots) until they reach the age of 21 and can become police officers. KCPD also is implementing a summer youth police academy for 12- to 15-year-olds in partnership with the Parks Department. The goal is for urban core youth to have a continuum of exposure to and mentoring by police from middle school to graduation. Those young people grew up in and understand the neighborhoods that are most in need of police presence, and we need them in the department.

That’s just some of what we’re doing in terms of internal changes in working with our community and law enforcement partners to address crime in 2018. We have the bold goal of getting Kansas City off the 10 Most Dangerous Cities list and look forward to what contributions our residents can make in helping us achieve that.

We believe all Kansas Citians deserve to live in a safe and healthy environment. It takes a community to make it possible. When we work together as a community, we have the capacity to solve our city’s most complex issues. Let’s come together now.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The impact of a social worker partnering with police

There are a lot of people dealing with issues in Kansas City that are frankly not the job of police to address: family problems, poverty, addiction and more. But it is those very issues that create crime problems in our community.

That’s why KCPD took a leadership role in embedding a social worker in one of our inner-city patrol divisions. It’s a unique partnership, and it’s changing people’s lives in a way that enhances public safety. She started in December 2016, and after a year on the job, the impact social worker Gina English is making continues to amaze me.

Lately, she’s taken it upon herself to volunteer and mentor youth incarcerated at the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC). She’s been working to let the young inmates there know that there is support available for them when they get out to do something different with their lives. Since she is working on behalf of KCPD, she’s also planting the seeds of positive relationships between these young people and law enforcement.

Gina was out shopping last week when she ran into one of the young men she’d spoken with at the JJC. He had been released and was working at a retail store. After speaking with him, Gina learned it was one of two jobs he had. He also no longer was attending an alternative school because he’d caught up on all of his work. Now in a regular high school, he’s making all A’s and B’s. This was a young man who had violated the law and was incarcerated, but now he is well on his way to being a productive member of society. After she spoke with him, Gina talked to his manager at the store. She told the manager that the teen was committed to his future, and that she’d made a great decision to take a chance on hiring him.

When a family came into the Central Patrol station this week to inquire about a driver’s license issue, Gina saw their 6-year-old boy didn’t have a coat. Although the family’s problem probably would best have been addressed at the Department of Motor Vehicles, one of our officers called down to Jefferson City to help make inquiries for them. While he was doing so (Gina had directed him to stall the family a bit), Gina ran out and obtained a coat for the boy. They left the station with their questions answered and a new coat, and the whole family had a new appreciation and trust for police.

Gina also got three people into substance treatment last week. As always, she is humble. She told me, “I just take advantage of what’s already available in the community and make connections for them. And how great is it that this help is coming from the place of law enforcement?”

That is just some of what one person did in one week in one area of the city (Central Patrol Division). Imagine what more social workers embedded with law enforcement across the city could do. We are working on funding that vision at each patrol division to create even stronger partnerships between social workers, police department members – especially community interaction officers - and our community. We are willing to forge nontraditional partnerships that work to decrease crime in our city. People who don’t have their basic needs met will always look for alternative means. The KCPD is striving to assist with those alternative means, as opposed to criminal means.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Protect yourself when making purchases from online markets

In the last few weeks, we have seen a surge of robberies involving people who thought they were meeting up to purchase something from an online marketplace. As these transactions are likely to increase with the holidays, I urge everyone to please exercise caution.

Several victims went to a purported home address of someone they didn’t know. Another agreed to meet in an alley. One victim was beaten and pistol-whipped.

Please, please do not drop your normal safeguards simply because you’re conducting a transaction arranged through an online marketplace. Would you meet a blind date in an alley or at a house in an unfamiliar neighborhood? Would you want your child to go alone to those locations? Then you shouldn’t either. You could be setting yourself up to become a victim of a violent crime.

If you are going to meet someone to buy something that you arranged online, suggest a police station. They are the safest places for transactions. Merely suggesting to meet at a police station could be enough to turn off illegitimate sellers with sinister intent. If they ask to meet elsewhere, consider that suspicious and don’t go. If you absolutely can’t make it to a police station, go to a well-lit convenience store with lots of high-quality surveillance cameras.

And the old adage, “If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is,” is very accurate. Police see that time and again.

We are actively investigating these cases and making good headway, but we don’t want anyone else to fall victim to such a crime. Please look out for yourself and exercise common-sense safety.

Additionally, check out these specific tips from our Robbery detectives:

1. Cancel sales in which one party asks you to change the location of the sale at the last second. This is a common robbery tactic.

2. In social media transactions, conduct the communication in-app. Apps like Offer-Up and LetGo are incentivized to assist end users in conducting safe business transactions. Dummy phone numbers are easy, common and very difficult to track.

3. Look for verified sellers and buyers. LetGo and OfferUp allow you to verify your account by cross referencing multiple platforms of social media. The more the merrier.

4. On Facebook Marketplace, look for buyers and sellers who have been around a while. Facebook will tell you when the account was created. If it was recently, don’t risk it.

5. Craigslist offers little transparency and no safeguards.

6. Control the transfer of money. Very recently, apps such as Venmo and Cash have made securely transferring money possible. Carrying cash is a liability, and very few people accept checks anymore.

7. For large items that are not easily movable, find a way to conduct the inspection and transaction outside. Never let someone you don’t know inside your house or car.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A simple way you can help solve and prevent crime in KC

One of my primary goals upon taking the Chief of Police position was for our department to become more efficient and effective through partnerships. I can’t think of a better example of that than our new WatchKC program. Since we launched it last month, owners of more than 400 surveillance cameras have committed to making Kansas City safer by registering those cameras with WatchKC.

One of the first things our detectives look for when investigating a crime is if there were any security cameras in the area that may have captured what happened. It’s an incredibly valuable investigative tool that is usually irrefutable in court. And because security camera technology is getting better and cheaper, more and more people and businesses are getting them.

When a crime happens, investigators have to canvass the area on foot looking to see if there are any nearby cameras in plain sight, often walking door-to-door. This process can take hours or even days, depending on how spread out the crime scene is and whether there were other events that may have led up to the crime.

The new WatchKC program allows residents and businesses to register with us that they have a security camera, and the address where it’s located. We’ll then put those locations on a map with each person’s contact information, and only specific investigative elements at KCPD will have access to that information. They will have no live access to the footage, but they will know where cameras are and whom to contact about possible recordings. Your registration information will be extracted from the submittal form and kept as secure as all other information maintained by KCPD.

WatchKC is a completely VOLUNTARY program, and it will save investigators so much valuable time and allow us to solve cases more quickly. Other cities have implemented similar programs and had great success.

Although a crime may not have happened at your home or business, your camera coverage may have captured evidence of a crime that occurred in your area. Your footage could be used to obtain vital suspect information that would help identify and convict criminals in your community. Residents often ask me and others on the department how they can help the police improve safety in Kansas City. Registering for WatchKC is a very easy but very powerful way for you to do so.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Partnerships increase safety on KC's public transit

Every city needs a vibrant public transportation system. Every resident of our city should to be able to safely get to work, school, libraries, stores and more, regardless of whether they own a vehicle. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (a.k.a. RideKC) provides the transportation through buses and the streetcar. Our role is to keep public transit safe, and we’re trying to accomplish that through partnerships.

For more than 20 years, dozens of off-duty KCPD officers have worked in a security capacity on Kansas City’s buses and at RideKC transit hubs. We’ve had many off-duty officers also provide security on the Downtown Streetcar since it launched in 2016.

But we took this partnership one step further. Last year, we established a Transit Unit with the KCATA. Two officers are assigned full time to patrol bus stops and routes and respond to any incident involving a KCATA bus. KCATA Chief Executive Officer Robbie Makinen said this when the agreement was formalized: “Our partnership with KCPD has always been strong, and it’s getting stronger.” I concur.

We’re happy to see this partnership keeping riders and drivers safe. The American Public Transportation Association announced KCATA won a Gold Award in its 2017 Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards in May. Among other things, the award recognized the KCATA-KCPD partnership as an innovative effort. This partnership and other security steps taken by KCATA have resulted in a 47 percent decrease in operator assaults from the prior year.

I’ve also lost track of how many great social media posts we’ve gotten from people riding the Streetcar who are happy the police are there. They often send us pictures they’ve taken with the officers and say how much they appreciate the officers’ presence and positive attitudes.

This partnership with KCATA is just one of many ways we are working with organizations and individuals throughout the area to make our city safer for everyone. I’ll be sharing more on this blog about other partnerships we have and that we are working to develop on to enhance safety in our community.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Budget request echoes community concerns

Last week, our department submitted our requested budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 (which would begin May 1, 2018) to the City Manager’s Office. Ultimately, the City Council will vote on this request, as well as those from all other city departments. Our proposed budget contains requests to fund everything from fuel to employee health insurance, but there are a few major items I want to share with you.

They are requests to fund 21 new dispatcher positions and 30 new patrol officer positions. We realize this is a request for additional tax dollars, and there are many other needs in the city, as well. But with our current staffing, we are unable to provide the kind of service taxpayers expect, so I believe these additional positions would be a very wise investment. These requests have been echoed by the community.


Many people are put on hold when they call 911 because our Communications Unit is under-staffed. The average 911 hold time for our department increased from 26 seconds in August to 30 seconds in September. This is unacceptable to both the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and the community we serve. When you call 911 in a crisis, you should get an immediate response. During the public forums for the Chief of Police selection process this past summer and the meet-and-greets I’ve attended this fall, residents have told me over and over again how concerned they are about being put on hold when calling 911. It’s a major community concern, and it should be.

We are hiring and processing as many people as we can to get our numbers back up to where they should be, but our current budgeted positions are not enough, according to a staffing study and national public safety telecommunication organizations. Twenty-one new dispatcher positions would cost $1,071,000 in FY 2018-19. I firmly believe that is a very wise investment for timely response to emergencies. While these additional dispatcher positions would bring us more in line with comparable cities, we would still remain on the high side of number of calls per dispatcher, compared to those cities and national standards.


For the last two years, as our officer numbers have decreased to stay within budget, our response times have increased, peaking at a citywide average of 9 minutes and 20 seconds for Priority 1 calls in November 2016. We’ve been working to bring them down since then. With some Academy classes coming through, we’re back to an average of about 8 minutes citywide, but some areas like North Patrol Division still experience an average of 9 and a half minutes for a response in an emergency. I also know many people in our city with lower-priority calls like home burglaries and non-injury accidents wait hours for a police response. That is not acceptable to KCPD or the community we serve, either.

After consulting with the Patrol Bureau, we determined 30 additional patrol officer positions are the minimum we need to improve response times. More than 30 officers would be very beneficial, as well, but we are cognizant of the other budgetary needs of the City and therefore limited our request in this proposed budget. Patrol officers are the backbone of this department, and in my view, everything else KCPD does is to support the patrol function. Also included in our budget is a request to civilianize several analytical positions on the department so those officers can get back in the field, as well.

For this year, those new officers would not come on until mid-year after other Academy classes have graduated, so our request for these officers in FY 2018-19 would cost $720,000. Again, we believe that is a small price to pay for the timely police service taxpayers expect and deserve.


What is not requested in this budget but should be on everyone’s radar are our technology needs. Many of our major technological systems are 10 or more years old and coming to the end of their life cycles, including in-car cameras and computers, E-ticketing machines, and our portable radio system. Replacement of the radio system alone is estimated to be $9 million and must happen within the next four years. The decision of whether to implement body cameras also will be steered by whether we have updated in-car camera and computer systems that could be compatible with them. It’s a logical progression.

I want the community to know that we are working to address the issues of timely 911 and patrol officer response, as well as the technology that makes those responses possible, like in-car computers. I look forward to working with the City staff and City Council in providing improved police service to the people of Kansas City while keeping in mind all of the city’s other needs, as well.

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