Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farewell from Interim Chief David Zimmerman

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

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

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

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

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

Chief David B. Zimmerman " 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Secure guns, protect children

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Additional resources deployed to areas experiencing violent crime, other factors

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Update on implementation of body-worn cameras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Interim Chief Zimmerman: My first week on the job

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

A farewell message to the members of the KCPD

My retirement was effective May 20, 2017. Future chiefs will take over this blog going forward, but I wanted to post one last thing. Below is the message I sent to all the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department today, and I wanted to share it publicly so they know how much they are appreciated:

"To the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department,

As you know, my retirement became effective this past weekend. I just wanted to take one last opportunity to thank you all and to encourage you to continue doing the best you can do.

It has been my honor to serve our community with you for the past 31-plus years. I’m proud of this organization. We have high-caliber sworn members and professional non-sworn members. Because of this, I continue to expect great things of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. We have great developing leaders at all levels, so the future looks bright.

One request I would make of you is to continue to be mindful of your wellness and that of your coworkers. This includes not just physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. That is one thing we focused on as an organization during my time as chief. Please continue to look out for each other’s welfare.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve as the leader of this organization for the last five-and-a-half years. Going forward, I know you will continue to impact our community for good."

- Darryl Forté

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I'm proud of KCPD members and our city

I would like to take the time to say how proud I am of the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and thank them for their professionalism and service in keeping our community safe. KCPD members continue to show what compassionate and caring individuals they are. I continue to be proud of the professionalism and compassion they exhibit.

I am encouraged by and appreciate all the support we have received and continue to receive from other segments of the community. Messages are constantly flooding in on social media and elsewhere thanking me for all the department does. Our officers dole out small kindnesses every day that most people will never know.

But I would be remiss not to thank the people of Kansas City, as well. Thank you for your civility. Thank you for letting your thoughts be known in a peaceful manner. One of my main goals as chief of police is to improve relationships between KCPD and other segments of the community. We are working toward that every day. I look forward to continuing to build upon the relationships we have made thus far and enhancing the trust between police and our community.

I am proud and honored to serve such an engaged community and will continue to work together to make our city safe. Your continued support is needed and truly appreciated.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Revisiting bullying in the workplace

I have said publicly many times over the last several months how important it is that the members of KCPD are OK. And I mean OK physically, mentally, emotionally and many other ways. Because if they’re not OK in some way, it can affect their own safety and the service they provide. We want capable individuals to have satisfying careers here, and sometimes that can be derailed by how they’re treated within their own organization. Thinking about the well-being of everyone who works for the Kansas City Missouri Police Department reminds me of this post about bullying I wrote in September 2013. I wanted to share it again today, not because of any particular incident or pattern, but because it remains a concern of mine and because how it is handled can contribute to the success of our organization:

Heavy on my heart this morning is the subject of bullying – not cyber bullying, bullying at school or even sibling bullying – but workplace bullying. Bullying is not solely germane to those more commonly discussed areas. It frequently occurs in the workplace. 

I began writing this blog at 2:39 this morning. For some unknown reason, the topic was weighing on me with a sense of restlessness that I haven't felt in months. As I tried to discount the heaviness on my heart and to rationalize the restlessness as excitement for being on a few days of vacation, I realized I had to share the realities and perception of workplace bullying, especially in a law enforcement environment.

To the best of my knowledge, this topic has not been broached by any police department, and certainly not by the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Realizing that it might not resonate well for some, I'll risk stirring the pot because this is a serious issue. But it would be a risk well worth the effort if it positively impacts the manner in which people are treated. Some might ask, "Why shine the light on the problem?" Because we must speak for those who can't speak for themselves!

Let me be clear, the issue within the KCPD is not systemic or wide-spread. Many of the bullies are no longer associated with the police department. The Kansas City Police Department is composed of courteous, dedicated and servant-minded individuals who have proven their commitment to our city.

At least on a weekly basis, I stress to my executive-level command staff the importance of ensuring all members of the department be respectful, courteous and fair, and that they immediately intervene if anyone is behaving unprofessionally. They've been asked to share my request and concerns with those they lead. They've been told if they see something, say something, and that no one should suffer in silence. Recently, executive level staff was provided a copy of "The Bully at Work," by Gary Namie, PhD, & Ruth Namie, PhD. This is one of many steps we'll take toward better identifying, addressing and eventually alleviating such an emotionally damaging practice.

In May of this year, the department's lead attorney from the Office of General Counsel began gathering information regarding internal suits, claims and EEOC charges of discrimination. The information will be reviewed to determine if policy and/or patterns of practices need to be revised.

As I reflect on my 28-year career with this great organization, I can't help but reflect on the many real incidents of bullying. Oftentimes, the bullies were in higher ranks or positions than those who were being bullied. I've witnessed and have been the victim of bullying at KCPD. I reported the bullying, and in most cases it was discounted as: "He does that to everyone," "You need thicker skin," or "Don't make any noise about that." As I progressed through the ranks of the department, I found better ways to confront bullies.

Throughout the years, many others have communicated their experiences, often hearing identical trite expressions from those who had the authority to intervene but didn’t. There have been incidents in which individuals were cursed out and even threatened, but no actions were taken against the bully. Transfers requests have been lost and denied without explanation. I've witnessed above-average yearly evaluations change to an employee who suddenly can't do anything right in the eyes of his immediate supervisor/commander. Most alarming, oftentimes no one intervened on behalf of the one being bullied. In some cases the bullies garnered the support of others, resulting in group bullying. The result in several cases was civil action being filed with monetary compensation being awarded to the bullied employee.

Although bullying can occur anywhere at any time, it's imperative to address bullying at its onset in a work environment. We must set the tone of non-tolerance, and most importantly, prevent the long-term emotional toll on those who are being bullied.

I encourage anyone who's being bullied to report the bullying to any supervisor or commander so the allegations can be properly investigated.

While not as prevalent as in my early years on the department, bullying still rears its destructive head far too often. I'll continue to promote employees who don't subscribe to the philosophy of going along to get along, but those who are willing to intervene to cease destructive practices, regardless of the personal consequences. I decided to express my feelings about this topic so others, within the department as well as those outside the department, might not stand by silently while others are tormented by unbridled bullies. I and many others have intervened to stop bullying over the years, and rest assured we'll continue to do so. My desire is that we create, nurture and maintain a bully-free environment and a culture that's comfortable sharing about any form of mistreatment.

I respectfully share this topic because it's important that all employees, as well as other segments of the community, understand what's being done to alleviate bullying within the KCPD.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

What the "48-hour rule" really looks like after an officer-involved shooting

The year 2016 brought about many positive changes in policing across the country. Locally, I’ve shared many of the ways we’ve updated our training over the past few years on everything from de-escalation to emotional proximity.

Despite top-notch training, police still are sometimes required to respond with deadly force. Earlier this year, I explained what happens in the investigation of an officer-involved shooting. I want to continue to address potential issues that have cropped up elsewhere before they become a point of contention in Kansas City. This past year, police departments in major cities have changed their policies regarding the so-called 48-hour rule for officers involved in a shooting to make a statement. In some places, these rules held that officers who had used deadly force could not be interviewed by investigators until 48 hours after the incident.

Let me first say that is not the case in Kansas City. Officers involved in a shooting here have up to 48 hours after the incident to voluntarily make a statement. Nothing prohibits them from coming in earlier. They can go straight from the scene to Headquarters to describe what happened, if they choose. Should the need arise to obtain a formal statement sooner rather than later for the purposes of filing charges and/or keeping a suspect in custody, officers are asked to make reasonable efforts to provide a statement to the Department within the timeframe necessary for filing charges.

We’ve heard criticism such as, “Well if I shot somebody, I’d be put in custody and taken to Headquarters and asked to give a statement.” If there was clear evidence of criminal wrong-doing, yes, you would. So would a police officer. If evidence at the scene indicates a police officer violated the law when using force, that officer also would be taken into custody and questioned. And both you and the officer would have the right to refuse to say anything. That’s why, upon arrest, police say, “You have the right to remain silent.” Both you and the officer would be presented with a Miranda form, and both of you could refuse to sign it and refuse to speak to detectives. And both the officer and you would have the right to legal representation should either of you decide to speak to detectives. Both cases would be considered criminal investigations.

On the flipside, if you shot a person in self-defense, and initial investigation determined that you acted lawfully, you would be given time (say, up to 48 hours) to come in and give a statement to police. A police officer who, upon initial investigation, also appears to have acted in self-defense gets the same treatment.

There have been numerous and sometimes conflicting studies on when the best time is for someone involved in a traumatic incident to make a statement: when their recall is most accurate, when might be most impactful on their mental health and a number of other factors. I’m not going to get into those here. I just wanted to provide some insight into how the “48-hour rule” following an officer-involved shooting in Kansas City really works. Fundamentally, a resident who shoots someone in self-defense is treated the same way an officer would be, and vice versa. Police officers have the same constitutional rights as any other citizen. 

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gun safety training can prevent deaths and injuries in 2017

A change in state law will go into effect on Jan. 1 that will have a large impact on firearms possession in Missouri. This was a law I opposed in the 2016 legislative session, but now that it has become a reality, the best we can do is urge people to please be safe.

Senate Bill 656 eliminated the need for anyone age 19 or older to secure a permit to acquire and carry a firearm, among other provisions. Previous concealed carry laws required those seeking to carry a firearm to complete a training course that teaches gun owners how to safely and responsibly carry, shoot and store firearms. That is a very reasonable and appropriate step for possessing a deadly weapon. Our own officers spend months in the Police Academy learning how to properly handle a gun and then get updated firearms training twice annually.

We heavily encourage gun owners to continue to seek professional training on the proper care, handling and storage of a firearm. Although it no longer is mandated, it is essential to the safety of you, your family and anyone who comes into your home. We see far too often what happens when guns are handled and stored improperly.

I’d like you to consider just these 2016 cases in which our most vulnerable residents, children, were killed or hurt in Kansas City because of guns that were not stored or handled safely. Some you may have heard about in the news, and some you haven’t:

· On April 27, an 18-month-old found her father’s unsecured and loaded handgun and shot herself to death while her father slept. The father is charged with then trying to hide the gun.

· On July 30, another 18-month-old showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound through his calf. Family stated a man came over to show the baby’s father a gun, and in the course of doing so, it went off and shot the child. The victim survived.

· On October 27, a 5-year-old used a foot stool to climb onto a kitchen counter. He reached into a kitchen cabinet, found a loaded gun and accidentally shot and killed his 3-year-old brother.

· On November 6, a man said he was cleaning his handgun with his 12-month-old next to him when the loaded gun went off. The bullet went through his arm and struck his infant daughter in the back. She survived but sustained critical injuries to her pelvis and spine.

· On November 12, a woman who was 6 months pregnant, her boyfriend, her sister and her 1-year-old niece were “play fighting” in a bedroom of their home when the boyfriend retrieved a gun as part of the play fight. The pregnant woman said the gun usually was unloaded, so she wasn’t concerned. But this time it was loaded, and it went off, striking the pregnant woman in the groin. She suffered from the injury, but the unborn child was not harmed.

· On November 29, two 15-year-old boys got together to play a game of basketball. One wanted to show the other a gun he had somehow acquired. The first boy took out the magazine to show the second the bullets. After he put the magazine back in, he said he intended to pretend to fire the gun. The gun actually did fire, striking the boy’s friend in the face. The boy with the gun immediately started apologizing. The victim survived. 

Proper firearms training and storage likely could have prevented every one of those incidents. Those are just some examples this year from Kansas City. In the first half of 2016, a child died every other day in America because of accidental gunfire, according to research by USA Today and the Associated Press. The 2014 report, Innocents Lost, found that 70 percent of unintentional child gun deaths could have been prevented by proper storage alone. A total of 61 percent of the deaths occurred in the victim’s home, 10 percent at a relative’s home and 10 percent at a friend’s home. That’s why it is important for every single person who owns a firearm to obtain training to know how to use, handle and store it.

The KCPD and many other local organizations also distribute free gunlocks. Call any of our patrol stations, and we will help you find one if you need it.

One other case in which a child was hurt by unintended gunfire this year happened on the Fourth of July. A 16-year-old boy was outside his home lighting fireworks with friends when he thought a firework had struck him in the shoulder. When the burning pain didn’t stop, he realized he’d been shot. An emergency room doctor determined the bullet’s trajectory; it had come from the sky above the boy and headed straight down. The teen had been hit by celebratory gunfire.

Shooting guns off in the air is dangerous and illegal, and we see a lot of it on New Year’s Eve. Endangering the lives and property of your neighbors is no way to celebrate. The reality is that any bullet discharged from a gun, even into the sky, must land somewhere, and when it does, there’s significant risk of injury or death. Celebratory gunfire killed an 11-year-old Kansas City girl on July 4th five years ago, and it hurt a 16-year-old boy this year. The family of the 11-year-old girl went door to door with our officers this year in the days leading up to the 4th of July to visit houses where our Shot Spotter gunshot detection system determined there had been celebratory Independence Day gunfire the previous year. They pleaded with residents in the area not to shoot off guns and make any other family suffer what theirs has had to go through.

A few other gun safety issues as we enter the New Year that I wanted to address in our efforts to make Kansas City as safe as possible: If you own a gun, it is very important that you record its serial number and keep that number in a safe place. And although it is not required by law, (legislation has been pre-filed in the Missouri General Assembly that could mandate it, however) always report if your gun has been stolen. If your gun is stolen, reporting it helps police track down where it’s been and who has been using it (and having the serial number makes this much easier). Stolen guns are used in a host of violent crimes in Kansas City. We recover shell casings at every shooting scene and work tirelessly to match them back to guns. Being able to establish a chain of custody of those crime guns is imperative to solving cases and preventing future gun violence.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department works hard to prevent shootings in our city, and we need everyone’s help to do it in 2017.

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