Wednesday, August 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

To our family and friends

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Statement on recent violence against police officers

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

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

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

KC NoVA is building foundation for change in urban core

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Hiring continues in order to meet community's needs

The 24 new KCPD recruits filled out new-hire paperwork this
morning, June 6.

This morning, I welcomed the 24 members of the 157th Entrant Officer Class to the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. And just a few weeks ago, I swore in the 12 members of the 156th Entrant Officer Class when they graduated from the Kansas City Regional Police Academy. Those dozen officers are now out on the streets for their break-in period with field training officers.

When I announced that we would not fill many vacancies, some were under the mistaken impression that we wouldn’t hire any more police officers. This is not the case. We will continue to hire officers as the budget allows. We always are accepting applications, and you can learn more about the law enforcement hiring process on our web page. The newest recruits will undergo nearly eight months of training in our Academy, on topics from constitutional law to defensive tactics. (Here is more information about our curriculum).

We also are continuing to hire for non-sworn positions. We’re looking for detention facility officers and building operations technicians right now.

Eliminating positions – some of which have been vacant for years – does not mean our hiring processes have ground to a halt. It means we are doing the most we can with the budget we have. We will continue to bring in officers and non-sworn staff to fill spots vacated by attrition.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Reducing positions while maintaining service

I wrote in my last blog about the staffing challenges the budget for this fiscal year (which began Sunday) presented to our department. We now have worked out exactly where we are going to reduce positions, and I wanted to share that with our community. Keep in mind we are eliminating positions, not people. All the positions that are being reduced this year already were vacant or are expected to be vacated through attrition. Many of these spots have been vacant for years, so it's not as though we're embarking on a sudden reduction in force.

To balance our budget, we had to decrease our 1,457 sworn law enforcement positions by about 8 percent. As a comparison, that’s about the equivalent of the staffing of a whole suburban patrol division (like South, North or Shoal Creek patrol divisions) and then some. Of course we spread these reductions out to minimize the impact on neighborhoods as much as possible. And not all are in patrol. Some will be detective spots, others are training officers, and more.

Here is how eliminated positions break down in some of the most visible bureaus – Investigations and Patrol:

  • 24 from the Investigations Bureau (includes Violent Crime, Violent Crime Enforcement and Narcotics and Vice divisions)
  • 85 from the Patrol Bureau:
     - Central Patrol reduced by 24 positions to 162 officers
     - Metro Patrol reduced by 14 positions to 150 officers
     - East Patrol reduced by 17 positions to 155 officers
     - South Patrol reduced by 13 positions to 94 officers
     - North Patrol reduced by 9 positions to 92 officers
     - Shoal Creek reduced by 2 positions to 92 officers
     - Special Operations Division (includes Tactical Enforcement, Canine, Mounted Patrol, Helicopter and Bomb & Arson) reduced by 2 positions to 81 officers
     - Traffic Division reduced by 4 positions to 85 officers.

This undoubtedly puts more pressure on the officers in the field and increases caseloads for those in investigations. As I mentioned previously, continued reductions in force could lead to increased response times for 911 calls. But we’re doing what we can to abate that.

We’ve come up with a number of ways to help reduce the demand on patrol officers so they can spend the time needed to provide the service our residents expect and deserve, rather than running from call to call. Our Tactical Enforcement officers are increasingly responding to 911 calls for service. Officers in the Traffic Enforcement Division are helping secure crime scenes – a job that used to belong to district officers. This frees the district officers up to answer calls or help with the on-scene investigation. I’ve shifted our Hot Spot program to put officers into the areas that are most in need of police attention. They’re working on everything from seeking out parole absconders and violent crime suspects to helping with community clean-ups and neighborhood meetings. You can read more about those changes in last month’s Informant newsletter.

We’ve realigned several things in investigations to streamline casework and ensure detectives properly follow up with all cases. Our Quality Control Unit is working with officers and detectives to ensure the best cases possible are presented for prosecution, which should help assist detectives as they take on more work.

We're always looking at ways to improve our efficiency. One of the things we're currently examining is how officers' shifts are scheduled. We must work within the budget we are allocated. As you read in my last blog, we have made many cost-cutting moves over the last few years. With law enforcement under more scrutiny than ever before, we will continue to serve our city with professionalism and integrity, no matter the circumstances or budget.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Upcoming budget presents staffing shortfalls

The City Council approved a budget last Thursday, March 24, that will have an impact on the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.

Before I explain what that impact will be, I first wanted to share the cost-saving measures our department has undertaken in the last two years, during which we have faced significant funding challenges:

  • More than 90 percent of our budget goes to personnel costs, so to balance our budget, we have eliminated 100 civilian and 60 law enforcement positions through attrition.
  • Another cost-cutting move was a buy-out last year, which saved the department $1 million.
  • No one at KCPD received a raise last year.
  • We were slated to purchase a little fewer than 80 vehicles last year to replace the ones with very high mileage and maintenance issues. We purchased fewer than 40 vehicles instead. We still had to pay to equip them all with everything from camera systems to radios, which can be almost as much as the cost of the vehicles, themselves.
  • We found a one-time funding source to pay for increased health insurance and ammunition costs.
  • Our department supports the radio system for the entire city, so we take on this cost for departments like Public Works, Fire and just about anyone who has a radio. We also answer all incoming 911 calls. We forward them to Fire Department dispatchers if the call is medical in nature or a fire. Therefore, our department is the only one that pays for 911 call-takers. They answered nearly 1.2 million calls in 2015.
We have cut a great deal of costs. And while we are doing our best to be as effective as possible with what we have, our data shows this is starting to have a negative impact. The time it takes for us to respond to emergencies has gradually increased since May 2015, by up to a minute in some places. We presently have 89 vacancies in our Patrol Bureau.

These are the officers who respond when you call 911. Here are the current law enforcement staffing levels, as compared to how many officers should be assigned, by patrol division:

Currently Assigned
Central Patrol
Metro Patrol
East Patrol
South Patrol
Shoal Creek Patrol
North Patrol

We have left these positions open to stay within our budget. We also have 100 civilian or non-sworn vacancies. This is critical, too, because we sometimes have to pull officers in to do their positions. Non-sworn staff members’ work also provides much of our departments’ backbone: officers couldn’t do their jobs without dispatchers, mechanics, detention officers, CSI technicians and so many more.

Unlike other city departments, we are required by state statute to have a zero balance at the end of each fiscal year. We cannot go over budget. (Mo. Statute 84.760) Nor do we use Public Safety Sales Tax funds to pay salaries. We have not put ongoing personnel costs on a tax that will sunset in a few years.

We gave a decision package to the City Council this year to hire 60 officers to fill some of the above vacancies. They chose not to do so. They did choose to fund a staffing study, which I had requested. But as I told the Council when I presented to them about our budget on March 3, the study inevitably will show we need more people. We won’t be able to hire them with our current allocation from the City, however.

The budget approved by the Council includes money to hire 48 new officers, but our average turnover is 58 officers per year. So with our current 89 vacancies, this will leave us with almost 100 vacancies by the end of the year. Vacancies will be achieved through attrition only. No lay-offs are planned.

To fund normal raises and health insurance increases at current staffing levels, our department needs $6 million more each year. However, we were $3 million short last year, so the next budget needed to go up by $9 million. With additional appropriations of just $5.2 million for fiscal year 2016-17, we essentially received a $3.8 million cut.

Raises are crucial to retaining quality, trained personnel. I’ve seen too many fantastic department members leave for other departments or careers for financial reasons. Our city loses their quality service, and our department loses all the money we invested in training them. It ends up costing much more than an annual cost of living increase.

I am supportive of the funds the City has made available in the FY 2016-17 budget to demolish and repair vacant properties. But that alone will not reduce, prevent and solve all crime. Police are part of that solution, along with engaged residents. Under the recently approved budget, however, the number of police available to assist will continue to dwindle.

We have achieved excellent results on tight budgets for years. We have been good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us. Because there are fewer of them, our officers are working harder than ever, and the risk to their safety is increased. The old adage that there is safety in numbers applies to law enforcement, too. Our community deserves a police department that can recruit and retain high-quality members. That makes residents and officers safer. Budget pressures, however, are making that harder and harder to do.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Beyond a video snippet: Why KCPD used pepper spray outside Saturday's Trump rally

I was supposed to go on vacation Friday and be gone all next week. But when I heard Donald Trump was having a campaign event in Kansas City, I thought it more important that I stay here. Given the unrest his rallies have sparked in other cities, I was concerned for the safety of those who would attend this event, both in support and protest. 

An estimated 500 people gathered in downtown Kansas City last night at the Donald Trump rally. Of those, a small number showed up intent on antagonizing and breaking the law. A video has been circulating showing police using pepper spray against those people. The video is a small moment in time and does not depict what led up to the incident. This is the full story:

Police were dealing with a bomb threat reported inside the Midland Theater as the rally started. At about the same time, I heard officers on the radio saying they were starting to get surrounded by the people outside. The Trump protesters were on both sides of Main Street. They started encroaching onto the street. The opposing sides periodically tried to come together, and officers found themselves breaking up more and more disturbances. The officers called in our Mounted Patrol for back up to break the two groups apart and get them out of the street. In the course of that, a police horse was assaulted. More officers were called in to help maintain safety and order. Some of the people gathered outside began to put on personal protective equipment (gas masks). Several of them tried to rush the front doors of the theater, blocking Main Street in the process. 

Police issued repeated commands to stay out of the street. They warned that pepper spray would be used if those gathered didn’t follow the commands. People had ample opportunity to back up or disperse. Police tried to get them out of the street for three minutes. Those three minutes were just when they were in the street itself. Tensions had been building before that on the sidewalk. They blocked traffic and compromised safety. Some cars caught in the back-up were surrounded. When the crowd refused to obey police commands, officers had to deploy pepper spray on two occasions throughout the evening.   

A total of four people were arrested. Given the circumstances, our officers exercised great restraint. And this morning, no windows are boarded up downtown. No one suffered any injuries beyond the temporary discomfort of pepper spray. The National Guard is not in Kansas City today to restore order.

People in the United States certainly have the right to peaceably assemble and express their views. And police were there to ensure that last night. Citizens do not, however, have the right to put others' safety at risk, destroy property or violate the law. The officers acted to facilitate an environment where law-abiding people could exercise their freedoms safely. And keep in mind that downtown was buzzing last night with people who had nothing to do with the Trump rally, and we had to ensure their safety, as well. There were tens of thousands of people gathered there for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and the Mecum Auto Auction, among other events. If events had spiraled out of control, they could have been endangered, too. Our officers acted appropriately to keep a volatile situation under control, and they kept people and property safe. I’m proud of them.

A video that’s a few seconds long does not capture the mood or actions that had culminated over time. This video, or any video, of law enforcement having to use force to protect people will rarely be pretty.  The volatile situation and the harm some people’s actions could have caused were stopped by our officers. Police made wise decisions last night and took action as needed. Thank you to those who continually support our first responders and our community. (And I'll be starting my vacation tomorrow.)

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

KC NoVA continues to make impact on violent crime

Because our homicide statistics returned to “normal” in 2015 after a 42-year low in 2014, many have said that whatever we’re doing must not be working. There were 110 people killed in Kansas City last year. While we couldn’t possibly have prevented every one of them, we have worked diligently to stop those who are most likely to be victims and suspects of crimes through our Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), among other initiatives.

You can’t prove a negative, so it’s impossible to say how many homicides KC NoVA has prevented. Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly believe there would have been much more violence the past year without NoVA’s work.

KC NoVA is a partnership begun in 2013 between our department, prosecutors, city government, social services and academia. This program has mapped out the relationships of everyone involved in a violent crime in our city over the last four years. Since January 1, 2014, they have identified 57 criminal networks with 1,239 members. These offenders have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident.

KC NoVA targets the most violent offenders – those at the epicenters of these criminal networks – for aggressive prosecution. Consider some of these arrest statistics over the past two years:

Felons in possession of firearms: 31
Other federal firearm arrests: 15
Federal warrant arrests: 17
State warrant arrests: 140
City warrant arrests: 739
Investigative arrests: 214
Parole absconders: 1,354 (NoVA in partnership with other KCPD elements and Missouri Probation and Parole)

KC NoVA officers have checked 2,199 residences, 533 vehicles, 249 pedestrians and 16 businesses. They also have conducted 11 “call-in” events attended by 241 people who have been identified as a member of a criminal network. These call-ins let attendees know the gravity of their crimes and that the full force of law enforcement and prosecution will be on the members of their group if a violent crime takes place.

Just in 2015, members of KC NoVA have sought to interrupt the cycle of violence even more. Thirty-five times since the beginning of last year, KC NoVA members met with the victim of a violent act (if he or she is living) and that person’s associates (friends, family members and whoever else might have influence on them) immediately following a violent act – usually a shooting or homicide. The goal is to prevent retaliatory violence.

Also beginning last year, a customized team of people have been conducting “mini call-ins” at the homes of individuals at risk for violence. These are typically people who police know will not attend a call-in event or have already refused to come. The notification teams can include community members, KCPD officers, a prosecutor, clergy and a member of Mothers in Charge.

Some of the people at greatest risk for committing or becoming victims of violent crime are those who already have committed violent crime. That’s why KC NoVA began extra efforts in 2015 to monitor prisoners who get out on parole or probation. Police and other NoVA partners are now meeting with individuals with a history of violent behavior before they are released from prison and back onto the streets of Kansas City, Mo. This has taken place 37 times in the past year. It’s also like a “mini call-in,” informing the individual that he or she will be closely monitored by law enforcement. It’s also a chance to offer social services to help them reintegrate into society.

KC NoVa is essentially a two-part initiative: enforcement and social services. For those less-violent offenders on the periphery of the mapped-out criminal networks, KC NoVA offers them a way out of a criminal lifestyle through support and social services. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed 337 people for services. Presently, 103 of them are getting help. In partnership with numerous community resources, KC NoVA has provided them with substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing services, anger management courses, legal support, clothing, insurance and childcare assistance and mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write and have received literacy and education assistance, as well. All clients who get assistance also are now required to complete a conflict resolution course. A majority of the homicides in Kansas City are the result of poor conflict resolution skills.

I am confident that KC NoVA’s work – as well as that of every other member of this police department – is making a difference. The homicide numbers do not tell the full story. Also keep in mind that Kansas City has experienced much of what the rest of the country did last year. The FBI released their crime report a few weeks ago that covered the first half of 2015. Murders were up 6.2 percent nationwide between January and June 2015. Overall violent crime was up 1.7 percent. We were fortunate not to experience the huge spike other cities did. According to the FBI, Kansas City had 36 homicides in the first six months of last year. During that same time, St. Louis had 92, Baltimore had 144 and Milwaukee had 75.

While I am certain we are working very hard to reduce violence in Kansas City, I must again remind everyone that there is only so much police can do. We need the help of everyone in the community to make a difference. From clean-ups in blighted areas of town to mentoring to parenting to reduced access to guns for those who shouldn’t have them – all these things could go a long way to ending senseless violence in our community.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The earnings tax's impact at KCPD

Kansas City’s 1 percent earnings tax presently is up for debate in the Missouri Legislature and up for Kansas City voters to renew in April. The proceeds from this tax make up almost 40 percent of the City's general fund, which primarily supports public safety, including the police department budget. Without it, police would be forced to make significant cuts.

If the tax goes away, the City estimates that 810 sworn officer positions would need to be eliminated. That’s more than 80 percent of the officers we currently have on patrol. In total, we currently have about 1,350 sworn officers, which include investigative, training and specialty elements.

Because of this estimated reduction, police response to some incidents would be significantly reduced and possibly eliminated, such as non-injury car crashes, burglaries, fraud and forgery incidents. Response times would increase, and elements like those listed below that were instituted through the earnings tax could be cut. A Northland patrol division station also could be eliminated.

The elements listed below have done a tremendous amount of good in our city. They have changed the lives of young people, found and stopped people who committed violent crimes, served the growing northern part of our city, significantly reduced illegal narcotics and the violence that goes with them, protected children from harm and brought justice for victims and their loved ones. If the earnings tax was eliminated, however, KCPD would have to devote nearly all of its resources to responding to 911 calls for service. We could not afford to staff these and other specialized units.

Here are the services and elements KCPD has added using earnings tax funds in the last 40-plus years:

D.A.R.E./G.R.E.A.T. Unit - The five officers in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Gang Resistance Education And Training unit reach approximately 3,000 Kansas City youth in 44 schools every year. Both programs are taught to children in grades 4 through 8, depending on the availability of the school’s classroom time. (One of the five officers is funded through the Jackson County COMBAT Tax.)

Police Athletic League – Their mission is to offer youth the opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive setting while participating in cultural, mentoring and sports programs with the main emphasis being placed on academics. The PAL program serves as a constructive alternative to anti-social behavior and boredom during their development years into adulthood. I’ve discussed some of the amazing work PAL does on this blog, and it’s become a national model. PAL is supported by donations, but the officers are paid through earnings tax funds.

Community Interaction Officers – These officers are the single point of contact for community members or groups to access a variety of not only police services, but community contacts and resources, as well. Each area of the city has an assigned representative (one at each of the six patrol divisions). These officers have contacts and relationships with community, cultural, church and professional organizations and strive to serve as a conduit to facilitate each working together for the benefit of the community they represent.

School Resource Officers – Two officers each are assigned to three high schools in the Kansas City Missouri School District: Northeast, Central Academy of Excellence and Southwest. The SRO program places officers in schools in an effort to create and maintain a safe learning environment and also create a positive image through interaction with students, parents, staff and administrators. The officers take a proactive approach with the students to help identify youth at risk, try to intervene with appropriate action plans, build healthy and trusting relationships with the KCMO Police Department and encourage a forward-looking approach to deal with the pressures today's young people face.

• Community Action Network – Six of these officers are assigned at three centers: Westside, Blue Hills and 49/63. They are the definition of “community policing.” They monitor issues within their assigned neighborhoods and work with a wide variety of departmental and City groups to combat the issues. They also do covert operations to follow known criminals in the KC Metro area in an effort to catch them in the act of committing crimes. Our CAN officers have been featured in the New York Times and in national documentaries for their work.

• Shoal Creek Patrol Division –
Serves a 75-square-mile area (for perspective, the whole city of St. Louis is 66 square miles) of northeast Kansas City that is home to about 90,000 residents. Officers respond to 911 calls, engage in proactive policing to prevent crime and work with community members and businesses. A dedicated Property Crimes Section investigates property crimes that take place in the division.

• Helicopter Unit – Officers in the unit fly approximately 1,700 hours per year. They assist in searches for missing and/or endangered adults and children, provide assistance to officers on the ground in locating individuals attempting to elude arrest, and provide information from overhead regarding police pursuits (traffic information to help officers safely pursue and apprehend individuals). They also gather information and intelligence to provide safety during large public gatherings like the World Series Victory Parade and rally, St. Patrick’s Day parade, large disturbances, etc. They provide coverage 15.5 hours each day, and are subject to call out. Kansas City Police also are the only law enforcement agency with a helicopter in the metro area, so KCPD Helicopter officers regularly assist other agencies on both sides of the state line. The helicopters were paid for through a combination of public safety sales tax and grant funds, but the salary of the officers who fly them comes from the Earnings Tax.

• Canine Unit – The Canine Unit does more than just apprehend suspects. They search for articles of contraband or evidence, locate lost individuals and bodies of the deceased, detect narcotics and search for any possible explosives at large-scale events. Ten officers, two sergeants and their 12 canine partners work 20 hours a day, and can be called out at any time.

• Drug Enforcement Unit –
All elements in the unit work in conjunction with federal partners to investigate and prosecute violent offenders. The unit has received numerous accolades from the U.S. Department of Justice for their work. This unit is readily available for 24/7 surveillance when requested. DEU is part of the Narcotics and Vice Division and is composed of the following squads:

- Interdiction – Members stop and investigate large quantities of drugs coming in and out of the city on mass transit, through shipping companies and more. In 2015, Interdiction members seized $46.3 million worth of narcotics and more than $1 million in cash in connection with illicit drugs.

- Career Criminal – Members go after repeat violent criminals involved in crimes like murder, robbery, kidnapping, shootings, and drug and gun trafficking. In the last couple years, members of this squad worked on such high-profile cases as the quintuple homicides in the Woodbridge neighborhood, the highway shooter investigation and Craigslist and convenience store robbery rings.

- Metro Meth – Members respond to, investigate and prevent methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution operations. This squad is the only regional group certified to dismantle clandestine labs in the metropolitan area.

- Administrative – Members work on cases involving prescription drug fraud and abuse and prepare search and arrest warrants for other members of the unit. They also make public presentations to schools, community groups and health centers regarding illegal drug recognition and trends. The squad works in conjunction with the DEA for the nationwide Drug Take Back initiative to safely dispose of all expired and unwanted prescription drugs.

- Undercover – Members investigate mid- to high-level drug activity. The evidence they gather is used in investigations of larger-scale trafficking operations for federal and state prosecutions. Members of this squad investigate heroin overdose deaths for supplier prosecution.

Crimes Against Children Section – These detectives investigated approximately 1,100 cases in 2015 in which an adult victimized a child age 16 or younger. The types of cases this section is responsible for bringing to prosecution include multiple types of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, endangerment, parental kidnappings and custody violations. Crimes Against Children also works with the Homicide Unit to co-investigate any incidents of a child dying as a result of abuse, neglect or endangerment.

Cold Case Investigative Elements – Detectives have reviewed thousands of unsolved sexual assault and murder cases in the last decade and have gotten justice for hundreds of victims and their families. The oldest case they solved was a homicide from 1969. While they continue to work cold cases, many of these detectives also now search for missing persons – both adult and juvenile.

Some people might question the need for such specialized units, but we are the largest police department in the largest city in the state of Missouri. These specialized services are needed to address crime that most smaller cities wouldn’t encounter. And our work with youth is critical, too. Many of the youth we work with grow up impoverished, surrounded by drugs and violence. Without some kind of intervention, they can succumb to the negative influences they’re surrounded by and become another generation of people who commit crimes that harm others’ lives and property. I view the work of our Police Athletic League, DARE/GREAT Units and School Resource Officers as a vital crime prevention service.

The services listed above were created with and are supported by the funds generated by the earnings tax. They are not a luxury. They are necessary to effectively police a large and diverse area like our city. But if the tax is eliminated, most – if not all – of these units could be eliminated, too. Remaining staff members would largely be assigned to respond to 911 calls.

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