Tuesday, January 29, 2019

With expanding technology, perpetrators of violent crime are more likely to get caught in KCMO

Within eight hours last week, detectives solved the murder of an innocent 71-year-old woman who was driving home from work. Had her murder occurred five years ago, it may never have been solved.

Barbara Harper was driving when she was shot and killed on the Downtown Loop about 3 a.m. Jan. 17. City surveillance cameras caught the whole thing, including the license plate number of the vehicle the shooter was in. Detectives used that and several other pieces of technology – from license plate readers to ballistics – to identity and arrest the suspect. We believe he had mistaken the victim’s vehicle for that belonging to another person with whom he had a dispute outside an adult business earlier in the evening.

Our message is to anyone thinking about engaging in violent crime or who knows anyone thinking of engaging in violent crime: it’s becoming more likely every day that you will get caught. There are parts of this city where we will detect your gunshot, see your license plate and capture your face on video. And those areas are expanding.

The technological advances our department has made in the last five years made solving the murder of Barbara Harper possible. She had no relationship to her killer, so traditional investigative measures likely would have produced little information. These advances have gotten us access to more public surveillance cameras and brought us more private surveillance camera partnerships. In addition to fixed-camera partnerships with entities like the Missouri Department of Transportation and the City of Kansas City, we have mobile surveillance cameras we can move around to different parts of town experiencing high crime.

These cameras work with our other public safety technology – like license plate readers and the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system – to help us identify guilty parties and prevent crime. The Police Foundation of Kansas City funded about half of these purchases, and I am very grateful for their donations. They, along with City officials who saw the importance of this equipment, are making our city safer.

Another example of partnerships and technology at work is the greatly decreased violent crime at what used to be troubled apartment complexes. We worked with a private video security company and about 20 apartment complexes that were experiencing violent crime issues on installing cameras around the public areas of the complex properties. Police can view video from the cameras and go back to review recorded video.

Our Real-Time Crime Center is staffed almost all day, every day with detectives and analysts to view and review video footage from all over the city. Officers on the streets also can view footage from many partner surveillance cameras on their cell phones.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, our partnerships with the public through WatchKC and the Neighbors by Ring app have continued to expand our ability to find the bad guys and bring them to justice. Now more than ever, if you choose to engage in violent crime, you stand a better chance of getting caught.

Barbara Harper’s senseless murder is just the most recent of many we have solved through video and technology. We’ve used this technology not only for homicides but other violent crimes such as shootings, rapes and robberies. With this technology, there is a lower probability you will get away with committing violent acts in this city. The deterrence effect will make Kansas City a safer place for everyone. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We're following up on New Year's Eve gunfire

These shell casings were all from one address in East Patrol Division after New Year's Eve.
Officers sorted them by caliber and type.

The New Year’s Eve celebration of two weeks ago may be a distant memory for some, but police are still hard at work following up on reports of illegal celebratory gunfire. Despite our pleas and enforcement, despite an 11-year-old girl previously being killed by such behavior, and despite the damage it does to property, people continued to engage in celebratory gunfire as 2018 turned to 2019. You can see some of what it was like from Central Patrol Division by reading through our Twitter feed that night, when we did a tweet-along with officers from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This year, as every other year, officers had to take cover around midnight for their protection. 

The ShotSpotter gunshot detection system covers 3.5 square miles of the city that have a high rate of gun violence and shots fired. Using that and recovered shell casings, officers found one address where 360 shots were fired on New Year’s Eve night, and they were from at least nine different guns, based on the calibers of the shell casings. In just East Patrol Division, officers recovered 180 additional shell casings from at least 13 other incidents.

Officers recovered several spent bullets from the parking spot of the East Patrol Division commander, Major Greg Volker, at the station. If he had been there getting out of his car at that time, he would have been hit. It is only dumb luck that prevented another horrible tragedy like what happened to Blair Shanahan Lane. As of noon on New Year’s Day, we’d taken two reports of property damage consistent with celebratory gunfire: one to a garage and the vehicle inside it, and another to a vehicle’s window. We know there’s probably much more out there that wasn’t reported.

From 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. Jan. 1, we received 301 calls to 911 about the sound of gun shots. The ShotSpotter system recorded 109 alerts during the same period. ShotSpotter can distinguish between gunfire and fireworks (there were those, too).

So what are we doing about it? We are gathering evidence so that as many people who illegally discharged firearms on New Year’s Eve (which is prohibited by City ordinance) can be issued citations if possible. It’s likely that some of those discharging firearms cannot legally possess a gun (because they are convicted felons, for example), so we are working with our federal partners to build those cases, as well.

New Year’s Eve should be a time of celebration and joy, not hiding in your basement with your children, as one terrified mom tweeted to us she was doing. We are doing our best to hold those accountable who wantonly risked the lives and safety of their neighbors.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Conclusion of the investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section

I'd like to discuss the conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Unit. I think it’s very important to share what we’ve done to correct problems, protect our city’s most vulnerable victims and restore trust in the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.

Sincerely, I am disappointed. This investigation revealed issues with the organization as well as individual commanders, supervisors and detectives. I am disappointed because I know we are better than this. On behalf of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, I want to apologize to the children and families who did not receive the service they should expect from us. I also want to apologize to the people of Kansas City, who rightfully expect their police department to provide excellent service to vulnerable victims. You will see our improvement in the steps we’ve taken to correct these problems and provide exemplary service and justice.

Investigation Findings
I’ll share the findings of the internal investigation, the cases of which generally transpired from 2011 to 2016. It identified two areas where failure occurred: at the organizational level, and at the individual level.

Organizationally, failure reached to the highest levels of this Department. There were no processes in place within this organization to address the issues of detectives’ caseloads growing too large. For example, one detective was trying to investigate 80 cases a month. Another detective said he inherited 72 cases the day he started in the unit. Their pleas for more people and more resources went unheard by command staff.  The Department also failed to ensure commanders, supervisors and detectives took adequate quality and control measures in case management, meaning how to best balance caseloads and allocate time.

The investigation also identified personal failures among commanders, supervisors and detectives. Among these were failure to address caseload issues, failure to follow up on some cases in a timely manner and ultimately failure to submit cases prepared most effectively for prosecution.

Investigative Process
This investigation took considerable time. We did not want to sacrifice a thorough review for expediency. Our Internal Affairs Unit generated 28 binders of investigative documents in this case. Working with other department members, Internal Affairs ultimately identified 149 cases from the Crimes Against Children Section that did not receive the attention they needed. On each of those cases, our internal investigators had to determine who did what, when they did it, and what was not done.  The members of the Crimes Against Children Section were given opportunity to tell their sides of the story, as well.

Those 28 binders of investigative documents were turned over to a specially selected internal work-group composed of members with various ranks and experience to review and inspect the Internal Affairs case files. The work-group members were pulled off of their regular duties and assigned to devote 100 percent of their time to review the investigation and make both procedural and disciplinary recommendations directly to me. I have reviewed the recommendations of the work group and all the case files. We have now come to a conclusion, which is why we are here today.

Investigation Results
This investigation resulted in internal disciplinary measures being recommended against 17 members who were assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section or its chain of command.  These recommendations ranged from disciplinary counseling to termination.  Of the 17 members recommended for discipline, seven are no longer employed by the Department. According to state statute, I cannot share which members received discipline, and these internal investigative files are not public record.

What We’ve Changed
When the extent of case management issues within the Crimes Against Children Section came to light, the department took the unprecedented step of removing seven detectives and two sergeants from their investigative duties. Other veteran detectives were brought in on special assignment at the beginning of 2016 to take over the cases and prepare them for prosecution. A selection process took place to identify new detectives to be permanently assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section.

Most – if not all – of the families in the 149 cases we identified that had to be re-worked have been notified of the status of their cases. If you are one of these families and still have questions, please call the KCPD Juvenile Section at 816-234-5150. 

The Crimes Against Children Section’s name has changed back to what it was previously called, the Juvenile Section. It is now fully staffed, with the addition of two additional detectives, for a total of 10 detectives and 2 sergeants. This creates an entirely new staff and chain of command for the Juvenile Section.  Staffing for this section will remain a top priority.

In April 2016, our department implemented quality control measures. We have reviewed thousands of cases to ensure both patrol officers and investigators have followed up thoroughly and in a timely fashion on their assigned cases. We also are working with department members to improve case file submissions so they have the greatest possible opportunity for successful prosecution. This has improved our processes and quality across all investigative units, not just the Juvenile Section.

Since I became Chief, all Department commanders now have undergone additional leadership and ethics training to enhance accountability and prevent complacency at every level of the organization. This is beyond our normal training program.

We took the lessons learned from what happened in Crimes Against Children and applied them across all investigative units on the Department. Both a sergeant and captain must review caseloads every month with their detectives. Whenever a detective marks a case as inactive, a supervisor must review it to determine whether that inactivation was appropriate, and a commander must review the supervisor’s recommendations.

We have enhanced our relationship with child advocacy groups and have asked them to hold us accountable. Feel free to ask them how we’re doing. We have Memoranda of Understanding with the Child Protection Center in Jackson County, the Children’s Advocacy Center serving Clay and Platte counties and the Jackson County Children’s Division. In addition to those, Juvenile Section members meet regularly with Children’s Mercy Hospital case workers.

What’s Ahead
The KCPD is working right now to co-locate our Special Victims Unit with the Child Protection Center and the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) in one facility.  The proposal includes on-site representatives from the Missouri Department of Family Services, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Rose Brooks and other social service organizations. The idea for the co-location is to have a “one-stop shop” where victims of child physical and sexual abuse, along with victims of domestic violence and adult sexual abuse, can receive all their services in one place. We believe victims will receive more comprehensive and convenient services by only having to go to one location. This co-location model is currently being used in Dallas, Omaha and San Diego with great success.

We are working with our partners to identify a location and funding for this facility. This should materialize in the near future. This partnership will enhance our ability to serve the most vulnerable victims.

The conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section marks the end of a regrettable time period in which the Kansas City Missouri Police Department failed to serve child victims in the way they needed and deserved. It is my job and the job of everyone in this organization to ensure it never happens again anywhere in this Police Department.

We have worked diligently to recover from this setback and get justice for every child in Kansas City who has experienced abuse or neglect, especially those in the 149 cases we identified. We have implemented training and numerous layers of accountability to ensure all victims get the most professional and effective investigations we can provide. Our partnerships with child advocacy organizations have never been stronger, and we are eagerly anticipating the chance to truly work with them altogether in one building. We look forward to showing you with our actions that the people of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are now, more than ever, dedicated to serve and protect the people of our city with professionalism, honor and integrity.

Thank you,
Chief Richard Smith

Monday, December 31, 2018

As security cameras proliferate, they're preventing and solving more crime in KC

As security cameras become cheaper, higher quality and more accessible, we are seeing tremendous benefits from them in both preventing and solving crime. They’ve been in the news a lot lately for their role in capturing package thieves, but they can help us solve everything from a burglary to a murder.

The partnerships we’ve formed with the community and a security camera provider have further enhanced the effectiveness of these cameras. If you have not yet registered for WatchKC, I encourage you to do so. WatchKC is a program in which residents and businesses can let us know that they have cameras. We then put those on a map that only certain detectives can see. The detectives can ask those camera owners if they caught any footage related to crime that has happened in the area. It’s a lot faster than walking door-to-door, so detectives can use their time more effectively.

We also partnered with Ring on their Neighbors by Ring App in October. This allows us to see videos and crime information Ring users share on the Neighbors app in real time. Police cannot see any identifying information about the user, just the block on which they live. As one of our crime analysts said, “That is my favorite part of the day: looking to see if anyone added video in our patrol division.”

These pictures don’t just help us – they help neighbors look out for each other. We’ve seen increased neighborhood awareness through these cameras and people sharing what they’ve recorded on social media and apps. That makes residents more aware of what’s going on around them and leads them to take preventative measures. It also makes them more willing to call us if they see something suspicious.

People caught on camera doing suspicious or criminal things at your home or business rarely commit just one crime. These videos and pictures help us link them to numerous other crimes.

So if you got a security camera for the holidays, we’d love for you to help us solve and prevent crime by registering with WatchKC or joining the Neighbors by Ring app.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Monday, December 3, 2018

Missouri's new medical marijuana law and KCPD

Earlier this month, Missouri voters approved Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana. I’ve heard many questions about how this will affect our enforcement activity. The short answer is: it won’t.

Amendment 2 allows state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana use to patients. Doctor-approved patients must obtain an identification card from the state indicating they are permitted to use medical marijuana. With the card, they will be allowed to grow six flowering plants in their homes and purchase 4 ounces of dried marijuana or equivalent from a state-licensed dispensary. The state must begin accepting applications for qualifying patients no later than June 4, 2019.

The passing of this ballot measure added Article XVI to the Missouri Constitution. Part of that amendment states, “This section is not intended to change current civil and criminal laws governing the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. The section does not allow for the public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.”

Because criminal laws about recreational marijuana use have not changed, neither will our enforcement. The members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department take an oath to enforce state statutes. Until laws change, we will conduct business in accordance with our oath and the laws of this state. For felony-level marijuana possession cases (35 or more grams), we will continue to submit case files to all the county prosecutors’ offices in Kansas City, depending on where the offense took place: Clay, Platte, Jackson and Cass.

Most misdemeanor-level cases will continue to be submitted to city prosecutors. While the possession of 35 grams of marijuana or less carries a fine of just $25, it is still a misdemeanor and will be noted as such on an individual’s criminal record. The passage of Missouri’s medical marijuana law in no way changes that. It does, however, raise many other questions regarding firearms, employment and more that are beyond law enforcement.

Police do not make laws. Legislators – and in this case, citizen petitions and voters – do that. We are sworn to enforce the laws as they are written, regardless of what is trendy or popular, and we will continue to do so. If there comes a day that marijuana is fully legalized, of course we will adapt and treat it as any other legal substance that also can cause impairment.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Giving our all to get a triple murderer into custody ASAP

We have been working diligently to combat violent crime in our city. What happened on Sunday morning was the epitome of senseless violence: in the course of about an hour, one suspect killed three people in three different places and shot two more in South Kansas City and Raytown. A 4-year-old child was among the injured. The shootings were not random and appear to be domestic violence-related. 

We immediately mobilized as many resources as possible to find and stop someone who had very quickly become a serial killer. In addition to patrol officers regularly assigned to the areas, we brought in more than 100 people - detectives from nearly all of our investigative units, Tactical Team officers, and our federal partners with the U.S. Marshals, FBI and ATF - to identify and track down the suspect. We also identified and located family members who could be potential victims and told them about what was happening so they could get to safety. Rosilyn Temple and Mothers in Charge were there comforting the loved ones of our numerous victims and helping them understand what we needed to do as police to put an end to the spate of violence. Within 12 hours, the suspect was in custody. Issac Fisher has now been charged with three counts of murder and 15 other charges.

During the course of the investigation into Fisher's location, we did something we don't do often: we asked people in the neighborhoods where we thought he might be to stay inside. We also flooded the area with police, but telling people to stay in was the best protection we could provide at the time. We know this was a scary time for some of our South KC residents, and I appreciate everyone remaining calm. I hope you know we were doing everything we could to get him into custody as quickly as possible to prevent any further violence. 

Our investigators, with assistance from the community, were able to track the suspect to a relative's house about 10:30 p.m. Sunday and took him into custody without incident. I commend the detectives and officers who gave all they had to this case. We wouldn't do this job if we didn't care deeply about the safety of our residents, and in no case was that more evident than how we came together and deployed every available resource on Sunday to find and arrest a violent individual before he could hurt anyone else.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, September 6, 2018

August homicides, case progress and improved community cooperation

August was a difficult month for Kansas City, Mo., in terms of violent crime. There were 20 homicides. Each one of those victims is someone’s loved one. Someone’s friend. We are working hard to hold the people who commit these heinous acts accountable. Despite the influx of murders, our detectives have done an admirable job of investigating and solving these crimes. They have literally worked around the clock.

We have four homicide squads, and they rotate being on call. On several occasions this month, the Homicide Unit commander had to put more than one squad on call. At one point during the weekend of Aug. 4 and 5, every single homicide squad and detective was either on call, on standby or actively working, just to handle the workload. That caused many of them to break or change their weekend plans to handle active cases.  I want to publicly commend them for their hard work, which I think you’ll better understand when you read the below.

While all these new homicides were taking place, our detectives also managed to solve three prior cases this August, including a triple murder. We’ve outlined those below, too.  Year to date, we now have the highest homicide clearance rate we’ve experienced in the last six years. As of Aug. 31, we were at 74 percent. (That’s according to FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting definition of clearance, which credits the clearance to the year the clearance occurred, not the year the homicide was committed. So past years’ homicides solved this year figure into the 2018 clearance rate.) Consider these homicide clearance rates from where we have been as of Aug. 29 in previous years (also according to the UCR clearance definition):

08-29-18               74%
08-29-17               45%
08-29-16               63%
08-29-15               53%
08-29-14               65%
08-29-13               62%

Even in the cases that aren’t cleared, you’ll see there are few cases in which detectives have no idea what happened. I’ve seen a lot of homicide cases over the years in which detectives know exactly who the suspect is but need witnesses' help to get the evidence needed to arrest and prosecute a person. And several of those happened in August. Because no matter how good they are, our detectives cannot solve these cases without your help. We must work together to bring justice for grieving families and to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. Fortunately, the improving clearance rates are evidence that this is happening more and more.

I wanted to start by sharing the non-August 2018 cases our homicide detectives got to prosecution last month:

October 2, 2017, at 7601 Monroe, Victim Marco Green.
Suspect: William Johnson.
Johnson shot Green while he sat in the back of a car. Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

October 10, 2017, at 4900 E. 17th St., Victims:  Jennifer and Victor Portillo, Yessenia Ahumana.
Suspect: Deaundre Brown.
Brown was present when the three victims were shot – one of whom was his ex-girlfriend – in a reported drug deal gone bad. He was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of armed criminal action.

July 28, 2018, at 8503 East 92nd St., Victim Deandrea Vine.
Suspect Xzavier McDowell
McDowell stabbed the victim, his girlfriend, to death in an apparent domestic violence incident. He has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence.

Now, here are the August 2018 homicide cases and the progress detectives have made on them. On most of the cases that haven’t already been charged, we know who did it. On several of them, we just need the right witnesses to come forward or the right forensic evidence processed in order to prosecute. I’d like to remind everyone of the $10,000 award available for information leading to charges in these cases by contacting the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477). You will remain anonymous:

Aug. 1 -  5018 Chestnut,  Victim:  BERNICE BROWN,  black female, age 43
Officers responded to a large outside disturbance that was updated to a shooting. They found the victim in the street suffering from a gunshot wound.  Suspect Tyjuan Caldwell was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. 

Aug. 1 -  3604 Bridge Manor Dr.,  Victim:  Hao Xingdong, Asian male, age 38
Officers responded to a shooting and located the victim on the side of the road suffering from a gunshot to the back of the head.  It was reported the suspect was running down the road shooting at a vehicle with a shotgun.  Two other victims received non-life threatening injuries.  Suspect Curtrail J. Hudson was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Aug. 2 – 22nd and Walrond,  Victim:  Tyrone Standifer, black male, age 54
Officers were dispatched to the area of 18th and Prospect on a reported shooting and located two victims inside a vehicle.  Both had been shot, and Standifer was deceased from a gunshot wound.  Police believe the shooting occurred in the area of 22nd and Walrond. Detectives have some forensic leads but still need tips.    

Aug. 5 -  1300 E. 89th St.,  Victim:  Shanterria Edwards, black female, age 26
Officers heard the souths of gunshots in the area and responded to investigate.  They found the deceased victim inside a vehicle suffering from gunshot wounds.  There is no suspect information at this time. 

Aug. 5 -  107th and Greenwood,  Victim: Cyrenaica Lang, black female, age 55
Officers were dispatched on a medical nature unknown.  When they got to the scene, they found the victim in the street, unresponsive. EMS responded and declared her deceased. It appears the victim had been shot. We have a subject of interest in this case and are working with the Crime Lab on further evidence.

Aug. 7 – 4909 East 39th Place, Victim:  Leo Woodruff, black male, age 17
Three days earlier, at 11:38 p.m. Aug. 4, officers responded to a shots fired call. Upon arrival, they found the victim lying in the street suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Woodruff died at a hospital on Aug. 7 at 5 p.m. We have good leads and continue to identify and interview people connected with the case.

Aug. 7 – 17th and White, Victim:  Justin P. Graham, white male, age 26
A resident contacted officers to tell them there was a body in the woods. They went to the wooded area the resident had indicated and discovered a decomposed body, which was later ruled a homicide. Detectives have good leads, and the investigation continues. 

Aug. 7 – 9th and Harrison, Victim: Terriante McClinton, black male, age 27
Officers were dispatched at 11:30 p.m. on a reported sound of shots. They found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. One survived, and the other succumbed to his injuries. An argument between several people preceded the shooting.  It appears the shooting occurred at or near the park in the southwest corner of 9th and Harrison. Detectives have identified a subject of interest and are looking for him.

Aug. 8 – 6801 St. John, Victim: Brittanie K. Broyles, white female, age 28
A truck driver coming to pick up supplies near 6801 St. John reported a dead body among several telephone poles on the ground outside. The driver called police at about 9:14 a.m. Police saw that the woman was dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Detectives have identified a subject of interest and are working with other department elements on the investigation.

Aug. 11 – 6112 Tracy, Victim:  Dajuan G. Alvarez, black male, age 30
At about 11:26 p.m., subjects dropped the victim off at a hospital emergency room and left. Doctors initially thought the victim had been stabbed. He died at the hospital. The people who dropped him off eventually came back to the hospital, and police questioned them. They told police the victim had been in a fight and had gotten shot, which an autopsy later confirmed. Police have gotten several tips and have a possible subject of interest. They continue to work on getting witnesses to come forward.

Aug. 12 – 3543 Prospect, Victim:  Jerel A. Price, black male, age 27
The gunshot detection system Shotspotter alerted police to a sound of shots about 11:53 p.m. at 3543 Prospect Ave. They found the victim with gunshot wounds in the northbound lanes of traffic. Nearby security video shows the victim had an altercation with two black males, one of whom pulled out a gun and shot the victim. Detectives are trying to identify those two men.

Aug. 15 – 12550 Raytown Road, Victims: Keith Wasmer, age 25, and Michael R. Brewer, age 29, both white males
At about 12:50 p.m. KCPD officers were dispatched to the area of 12550 Raytown Road on a reported dead body call. Upon arrival, officers were directed to a remote location approximately 3/4 of a mile west of the dispatched location. This area is heavily wooded and near a trail. They located the two victims’ bodies. Despite their state of decomposition, the Jackson County Medical Examiner determined they have suffered apparent trauma and has ruled the victims’ deaths as homicides. We have identified at least one person involved.

Aug. 16 – 470 and View High Drive, Victim:  Tasheika S. Baker, black female, age 41
Officers were dispatched about 10:29 p.m. to a shooting at I-470 and Raytown Road. They looked all over the area and eventually found the victim at I-470 and View High. Lee's Summit Fire/EMS were first at the scene and transported the victim to the hospital, where she was declared deceased. Detectives are working with federal partners on a possible lead but otherwise have little to go on.

Aug. 17 – 3339 Wabash, Victim:  Morris “Mack” Clay, black male, age 66
Officers were dispatched to 3339 Wabash at 4:41 p.m. They found the victim with an apparent gunshot wound on the front porch of a house. They attempted CPR while tactical officers cleared the house because witnesses said the suspect may be inside.  The victim died. The suspect was not inside, but he had driven away just after the shooting. Officers located him, and now Marshall Celestine has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. He is being held on a $100k cash-only bond. 

Aug. 19 – 435 and Eastwood, Victim:  Gabriel J. Edgar, black male, age 36
Officers were initially dispatched at 3:41 a.m. on a vehicle crash at 435 and Eastwood. When they got there, they found the victim shot to death in the northbound lanes of 435 at Eastwood Trafficway. A tow truck driver first discovered the victim. Detectives have identified a person of interest and are working with the Crime Lab on analysis to move the case forward.
Aug. 19 – 10th and Harrison, Victim:  Dante L. Wachteler, white male, age 25
Officers were dispatched at 4:41 a.m. on a sound of shots and found the victim in the street suffering from a gunshot wound. There were no witnesses at the scene, and police have few leads.  

Aug. 19 – 14th and White, Victim:  Curtis A. Presley, black male, age 21
The victim was with a man who was giving a ride to two other male suspects – a juvenile and an adult –to buy marijuana. The suspects asked the victims to pull over at 14th and White, and when they did, the suspects attempted to rob the victims of their car, money and cell phone. The deceased victim refused to turn over his phone and was subsequently shot by the juvenile suspect. The juvenile has been charged in Family Court. Police have identified the adult suspect and are looking for him. 

Aug. 25 – 6816 Cleveland, Victim:  Raphael M. Butler-Grimmet, black male, age 17
An officer in the area heard shots at about 5:09 a.m. and saw a car fleeing the scene. Police pursued that vehicle to 7th and Rainbow in Kansas City, Kan. Other officers went to 68th and Cleveland, where they found the victim dead from apparent gunshot wounds. There were several witnesses at the scene. Police learned the shooting stemmed from an argument among people who knew each other. The driver of the vehicle that left the scene has been charged with felony eluding.  The shooter has been identified and remains at large. Officers are actively searching for the suspect

Aug. 29 – 7041 Askew, Victim: Christopher M. Cropp, white male, age 36
Officers responding on a reported shooting at 12:59 p.m. found the victim in the front yard of the house with a gunshot wound. Investigation revealed that someone known to the suspect came to retrieve property and brought the suspect with them. The unarmed victim was standing outside the suspect’s vehicle when they got into an altercation, and the suspect shot him from inside the vehicle. The suspect, David W. Worlledge, has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Aug. 30 – 4029 Park, Victim: Joseph H. Honea, white male, age 43
The Shotspotter gunshot detection system alerted officers to shots fired in the vacant lot at 4029 Park at 4:29 a.m. They found the victim deceased from multiple gunshot wounds. Detectives have some information about the victim’s activities prior to his death, but they need more leads.

Again, you can come forward with information while remaining anonymous and earning a $10,000 reward by calling TIPS. More and more people are doing so. Because the good news is that overall violent crime – including homicides – is down year-to-date. You can see the homicide numbers updated daily on our web site. And so far, non-deadly shootings through Sept. 2 are down nearly 13 percent compared to the same time last year. This shows that our community is standing up and opposing the culture of violence in Kansas City.   

Coming up on October 6, each of our six patrol divisions will host a Citizens United Against Crime event (see the flier below) at various locations throughout the city. We hope this fun event will continue to enhance our collaboration with residents by building relationships and providing education in crime prevention.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Thank you for your support in wake of officers' shooting

Three of our officers were shot yesterday while trying to apprehend the man that we have identified as the suspect in the murder of a UMKC student from India - Sharath Koppu - on July 6. Fortunately, all three officers’ injuries were not life threatening. The suspect was killed in a gun battle with police. You can see pictures of one of the officer's vehicles above.

But I think the bigger story is what happened before, outside of and after yesterday’s incident. The people of Kansas City really came together to help us solve this senseless slaying of an innocent man. After we released video of the suspect, we got more than 40 tips from community members. About ten of those all identified the same person. I think this is proof both that the people of Kansas City will not tolerate that kind of violence and that the increased $10,000 reward for information in homicides is paying off.

Obviously, our very brave and courageous officers deserve a great deal of credit and praise for what happened yesterday. Without being called, they responded from all over the city, on-duty and off. Some of them just put on their uniforms and showed up to help in any way they could.

On behalf of the KCPD, I’d like to thank the agencies who assisted us at multiple shooting scenes yesterday, including the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, U.S. Marshals, FBI and ATF. Taking It to the Streets and the Salvation Army provided food, drink and a place to cool off and use the restroom for the officers, detectives and crime scene staff who were out working these incidents. We’d also like to thank the amazing hospital staff members who have cared for our officers so diligently and cheerfully accommodated all of their visitors.

As those officers recover in the hospital, they are taking in the massive amount of support that has flowed their way, and it is lifting their spirits. Members of the Board of Police Commissioners and Mayor Sly James came to visit them. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson called to offer his support and acknowledge the bravery and sacrifice required in police work. Other elected officials have reached out, as well. I’ve lost track of how many of our fellow police agencies around the metro area and across the country have reached out with their support and prayers. Members of the media have offered their well-wishes.

Most importantly, our community has rallied around these officers and our department. We were frankly a little taken aback by all the notes of thanks and support that have come in on social media, e-mail and by phone. That support means the world not only to the officers who are recovering, but to everyone on this department. Because this job is not easy, and in recent years, it’s only gotten harder as tension has erupted between law enforcement and the people they serve across the country. Our job is to protect and serve every single person who lives, works or visits Kansas City, Mo., with professionalism and integrity, and we take that duty extremely seriously. For officers to go out there and know that their work is appreciated means more than a paycheck ever could. I just can’t say “thank you” enough to the people of our city who are partnering with us to make it safer.

Some of those people were in the neighborhoods yesterday where these incidents occurred. We interrupted a church service and had people shelter in place in their houses. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in our efforts to bring this incident to the safest conclusion possible.

We hope everyone’s support continues beyond these next few days. The terror of what happened will not stop for these officers after they leave the hospital. They are husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, and their families have undergone trauma, as well. We deployed a chaplain to the hospital and to each of our urban core police stations to pray with and encourage not only the injured officers but especially our newer officers who are understandably shaken. Our Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99 also hosted a chaplain and activated our peer support network. The KCPD CARE Team assisted with practical matters for the injured officers’ families. Everyone involved in this situation will remember what took place for the rest of their career, and their lives, for that matter. They will also remember the outpouring of support received from this community. Thank you to all. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Traffic tickets, race and the facts

The Kansas City Star recently published an article and editorial about the racial breakdown in traffic tickets in Kansas City, Mo. First and foremost, I want to be clear that we welcome public scrutiny. We want to hear from the people we serve about what they think we’re doing well and what we can improve upon. We’re also constantly analyzing data to see where we need improvement, additional training and/or amendments to our policies and procedures.

Numerically, whites received more traffic tickets in 2017 in Kansas City, Mo. But proportional to their population, yes, 
African-Americans received more tickets. That’s something we continually evaluate and use that analysis to deploy our resources. This disparity is not just an issue with Kansas City but with police departments around the country.

In their story, The Star sorted their ticket data by the zip code of where the person receiving the ticket lives, not where the tickets were issued. The zip code of where the ticket is issued is not recorded on most police citations – just the address – so they can’t be sorted that way. (So we could issue a ticket to someone by KCI who lives in the 64130 zip code, but we wouldn’t know that at the time of the stop.) We’re not sure of the methodology the Star reporters used to analyze the data in their Sunday article, but I would be happy to share our data on tickets issued by race in 2017. This was pulled from our e-ticketing system:

Total citations: 115,134

Tickets by race
African-American – 41,961
White – 43,801
American Indian or Alaskan Native – 66
Asian or Pacific Islander – 758
Unknown – 2,074

The remaining 26,474 tickets were parking tickets. When those are issued, we don’t know the race of the person receiving the ticket.

KCPD also captures data about whether officers knew the race of the driver prior to stopping a car. This is not required data, but we think it’s important. Our data shows that officers did not know the race of the driver they had stopped when they pulled the vehicle over 98.6 percent of the time. Think about it – an officer clocks a car speeding from a quarter-mile away – he or she has no chance to see the driver.

Even so, we would expect higher ticket numbers to be issued in the areas of the urban core most impacted by violent crime in 2017. Interim Chief David Zimmerman deployed Traffic Enforcement crews to several zones along the Prospect Avenue Corridor to combat spiking violent crime, homicides and traffic fatalities. We experienced 99 traffic fatalities in 2017, the most since 1980. Interim Chief Zimmerman explained this in a blog at the time we started the initiative. The zones were determined by a well-known intelligence-led policing strategy called DDACTS – Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety. Those zones were in the zip codes cited in the Star’s article as having the highest numbers of residents receiving tickets. We would expect them to because we increased police presence there to combat violent crime and make it safer for residents. More officers in the area led to more officers to see traffic violations. (Traffic fatalities are at 25 year-to-date, compared to 34 at this time last year.)

It’s something of a Catch-22. With violent crime spiking, police were accused of not doing enough. Then we deployed extra resources to areas experiencing the most violence, and now we’re accused of “over-policing,” as you’ll see in inquiries from the Star reporter below.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Municipal Court data cited in the Star's article is not the same as stop data. We rely on the stop data we compile for the Missouri Attorney General to help us identify any potential bias and to address it in our training. That actually shows us how many drivers of every race we pull over. Our 2017 stop data will post on the Attorney General’s web site no later than June 1. Feel free to check out our 2016 data. Our disparity index for African-Americans is lower than the rest of the state. We continually review this rate against other departments and against our own department over prior years.

Despite the Star article’s focus on the fines and warrants that arise from Municipal Court, there was no description of Municipal/Traffic Court procedures, no statement from a judge, and no comment from a neutral attorney or public defender. There was no mention of the Court’s warrant amnesty days, payment plans, or diversion opportunities. Much can be resolved simply by residents showing up to court. I highly encourage anyone struggling with traffic fines and warrants to contact the court to see how the issues can be resolved.

Finally, I’d like to address how this article played out from our end, and why the Star’s statement that we provided no comment is false.

The Star first contacted Media Unit commander and public information officer Captain Lionel Colón by e-mail at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15. The reporter stated they’d gotten statistics (they did not say from where), and then asked these questions:

“1. Why are African Americans being assigned tickets at such a disproportionate rate?
2. Why does the 64130 zip code account for such a disproportionate amount of tickets?
3. Some have interpreted this data as demonstrating a pattern of ‘over-policing’ and targeting of AA motorists by the KCPD. What is the department's response to that?”

Captain Colón responded early the next morning asking what the data were so we could review it in order to properly answer their questions. The Star declined to provide the data, other than directing us to public information from Municipal Court. They refused to say with whom they worked at Municipal Court to obtain the data or what kind of dataset they’d requested. Captain Colón said it would be irresponsible for him to speak to the data without seeing it.

Over the next few days, we worked to try to extract our own ticket data from 2017 by race and set up an appointment with leaders at Municipal Court to compare. Captain Colón maintained daily e-mail contact with the Star during that time.

On Friday, May 18, we told the reporter that since we could not see the data the Star used to make responsible and informed comments, we were working to pull the data ourselves. We told him there were several other large-scale public information requests that had been submitted previously from other organizations that – to be fair to everyone – needed to be addressed first. The reporter responded that it was too late, anyway, and the article would run on Sunday. The Star then reported that KCPD declined to comment, which is false. We requested the Star correct their statement, “Police did not respond to the Star’s request for comments to this article,” and they declined. Daily e-mail conversation between KCPD and reporters and editors is not a “no comment” situation. “No comment” is not a response that we give. Sometimes we have to protect the integrity of an investigation and can’t say much, and other times – as is the case here – we need more time to review a large amount of information (that wasn’t even made available to us for review). Just to pull that information ourselves took more time than the Star allotted us for making a statement on it.

In summary, the Star reporters gave the police department 2.5 days to respond to reams of data they wouldn’t show us. Members of the Star have had the opportunity to review this data since February 2018, according to Municipal Court.

Again, we welcome scrutiny. We are accountable to the people of Kansas City. Some examples of how we hold ourselves accountable are the racial stop data we provide to the Missouri Attorney General and the monthly reports on crime and police activity we deliver publicly to the Board of Police Commissioners. We are obliged to provide fair police service to everyone, and we strive to do that every day. We also have an obligation and responsibility to address crime and provide public safety, which includes enforcement. So we welcome scrutiny, but the KCPD and the people of Kansas City deserve to have an authentic and informed discussion on this topic. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, May 3, 2018

With your help, we've enhanced our response to threats against schools

Since my previous blog on mass shooting threats, I wanted to update you on what’s been happening regarding this in Kansas City. After the horrific shootings at the high school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, school threats came pouring in across the metro. As far as we can tell, there have been 21 verifiable incidents involving threats of mass violence since Feb. 14 in Kansas City, Mo. Twenty of the 21 were directed at schools. We immediately investigated and followed up on every one of them and have implemented new practices to ensure these types of threats don’t slip through the cracks. We would not have been able to do any of it without the community’s vigilance and reporting.

We started a new notification system to ensure the right people on the department can start tracking down suspects as quickly as possible. And because they were so numerous, we even created a new report category in our records management system in April for these types of terroristic threats to increase our ability to track case progress and accurately reflect the number of incidents we’ve encountered.

Let me share an example of how we handled one of these incidents. Someone at one of our high schools notified police of a possible threat of violence they’d learned about the previous day. The person had heard students were going to bring a gun after school to confront other students on April 12. Police quickly converged on the school just before dismissal. One of the officers spotted the two juveniles who purportedly made the threat walking purposefully toward the front of the school with what appeared to be firearms. Four officers moved in and stopped the two teenagers. They recovered a loaded gun from each of them and took them into custody, stopping who knows what kinds of violence.

Most of the people who have made these threats are juveniles. The majority of their families that we’ve encountered have been very supportive and helpful in KCPD’s efforts to intervene and prevent school violence. Although many of these juveniles have been taken into custody and charged with making terroristic threats, KCPD is doing more than just enforcement-based response. Our social workers and Crisis Intervention Team officers are working with them and their families to ensure they’re receiving the help they need. Some have struggled with mental illness, and we’ve worked to connect them to treatment.

As I said in my post after the Parkland shooting, the protection of children is one of our top priorities. But we must be aware of threats of violence everywhere, from a country music concert to a Waffle House. Our prevention, notification, investigation and enforcement activities remain the same for all potential threats of mass violence. But we need your help. If you hear or see any threats of violence against one person or a whole building full of people, please call 911 immediately. (Please do not notify us via social media. That’s not monitored 24/7, nor can we dispatch from there.) We’re ready to respond. From our perspective, this successful police-community partnership already has prevented violence at schools in Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org