Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It takes a community

Co-authored by Mayor Sly James and Chief Smith

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 5, 2018

The impact of a social worker partnering with police

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Protect yourself when making purchases from online markets

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

5. Craigslist offers little transparency and no safeguards.

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

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


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Partnerships increase safety on KC's public transit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Budget request echoes community concerns

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

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

Dispatchers

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

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


Officers

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

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

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


Technology

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


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

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The KCPD and our regional partners are ready respond to all critical incidents

We are all still reeling from and horrified by the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night. That kind of act will never make sense. When something like this happens, we often wonder, “Could that happen to me? Could that happen in Kansas City?” Unfortunately, this is a possibility in any city in America, or in the world.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department constantly trains for the possibility that it could. You should be confident that the Department is ready to respond to any type of critical incident and to coordinate with regional resources, if necessary.

Obviously, the greatest tool for a critical incident is prevention. We have analysts, officers and detectives working every day to gather and analyze information about individuals and groups that could pose a threat to the safety of our community. They need your help to do this. If something strikes you as suspicious, please give us a call and let us know. We’ve been told to do this with terrorism: “If you see something, say something.” That’s applicable in other criminal areas as well, such as brewing disputes that could escalate into violence. You could save a life by being aware and willing to share your concerns with us.

At this time, it does not appear there was anything law enforcement could have done to prevent what happened in Las Vegas. We know we can’t prevent everything but we can be prepared for it, and we are. Every officer on this department undergoes training for active shooter situations, and our Tactical Response Teams train for critical incidents on a weekly basis. We do regular table-top exercises for mass shootings and other large-scale critical incidents, including natural disasters. We work with many entities on these simulated incidents, such as the Kansas City Fire Department, Public Works, Health Department, Kansas City Power and Light, Spire (formerly MGE) and local hospitals. Just last month, we did a large-scale, two-day, tabletop exercise with critical incident scenarios that included working with hospitals in our region. Kansas City and the surrounding area are prepared.

In addition to our patrol officers, Tactical Response Teams are designed to handle critical incidents, and our teams are on duty day and night. They have numerous tools and equipment to gain access to barricaded active threats, just like the brave officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department set out to do when approaching the shooter’s hotel room door on Sunday night. Explosive breaching is one of the tools we have in our toolbox.

One of the great things about the Kansas City area is the level of regional cooperation we enjoy. Were a mass casualty incident to take place anywhere in the metro, we have everything in place to respond to it together within minutes: regional assistance agreements, radio interoperability and experience working together. That’s because we also train and cooperate regionally through agencies like the Mid-America Regional Council and the Metropolitan Tactical Officers Association (MTOA). The state line is irrelevant in critical incidents. The MTOA lobbied both legislators in Kansas and Missouri to change laws to allow officers on both sides of the state line to respond and assist in a critical incident. If a large incident were to take place in a neighboring city – even on the other side of the state line – we stand ready to assist their police department, and we know they are ready to assist us. One phone call or radio transmission is all it would take.

But that is the kind of thing we will do if needed. It’s not typical, but we will work with KCFD to ensure everyone receives the medical care they need as fast as they can. Many things won’t be typical in a mass casualty incident, but all first responders and medical personnel will be coordinating to ensure care is delivered as quickly as possible.

Of course we hope and pray nothing like what happened at Las Vegas or in terrorist attacks around the globe could happen to us or our loved ones, but as law enforcement, we have to be prepared for the possibility. We review these other incidents to see what we can learn and incorporate those lessons into our training and sometimes even into our equipment.

We realize events like this can be traumatizing to many individuals. I’m sure some would think about going to an outdoor concert differently than they did prior to this event. But don’t let evil win. Don’t change your lifestyle or refrain from participating in events you enjoy. Stay vigilant; if you see something say something to help keep others safe, so we all can continue to enjoy the freedom this country offers.

Our hearts are with everyone who was impacted by the horrible events that occurred in Las Vegas, including the first responders who ran toward the gunfire and had to endure such carnage. Rest assured, the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are ready to do the same.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, September 21, 2017

911 Call Center staffing is a very high priority

9-1-1 is the public’s literal life-line, and I take our responsibility to respond to and manage that life-line very seriously. The call-takers and dispatchers of the KCPD take calls and dispatch not just for police, but also for EMS, the Fire Department and Animal Health and Safety. The women and men sitting in our call center are the first first responders to every life and safety need in this city, and they are seriously over-worked.

Due to staffing issues that existed before I came into the Chief’s position, all of our call-takers and dispatchers are working mandatory overtime. From the beginning of the year to Sept. 15, about 70 people have worked 11,360 hours of overtime. They’re missing family events, aren’t able to pick up their children from school and are burning out. That amount of additional work in a job that is already high-stress is causing substantial turn-over, creating more of a staffing crisis.

What that means for the public is that you can be put on hold when you call 911. For the month of July 2017, the average hold time was 24 seconds. No one is satisfied with wait times for 911. We want that response to be without delay all of the time. That is the community’s expectation, and it is ours, too. And we are working toward that.

The recent Matrix staffing study recommended we hire seven more Communications Unit staff – that is add seven more positions. We have 14 vacant positions at present, so that would be 21 more people than we have now. (I’ll periodically be highlighting here how we’re acting on the other recommendations of the Matrix study.) Based on recommendations from national public safety telecommunications organizations, we believe that number should be higher than what Matrix recommended.

We’ve been out in the community recruiting and have conducted dozens and dozens of interviews with potential candidates. If you are interested in this very important and interesting work, please check out the job description and where you can apply! We welcome any inquiries.

But if we hire 100 people tomorrow, it would still be some time before the Communications Unit is fully staffed. A call-taker must undergo 13 weeks of training before being able to operate independently. To become a dispatcher, call-takers must undergo an additional 16 weeks of training.

So in the short-term, we are doing a number of things to reduce 911 hold times and mandatory overtime. We are working to bring in experienced part-time and contract call-takers and dispatchers. There also are several members on our department who used to work in the Communications Unit but have moved onto other jobs. We have offered them refresher training and courses on our new computer-aided dispatching (CAD) system so they can do voluntary overtime. I really appreciate those department members stepping up. Some of them haven’t been in the call center for more than 20 years, but they still had the skillset, saw a need, and they volunteered to meet it.

In 2016, our Communications Unit answered 1,202,589 calls. While we also have a great need for more officers, getting the Communications Unit adequately staffed is one of my highest priorities right now, and the Board of Police Commissioners have indicated it’s theirs, as well.

If you or someone you know has ever thought about having an exciting, rewarding career that directly serves others, please consider being a communications professional with the state’s largest law enforcement agency. Again, here’s how to apply.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

We're prepared for upcoming rallies

Police are aware of and prepared for a rally set for Washington Square Park on Saturday, Sept. 9. It is slated to involve numerous groups and hundreds of people from across the political and ideological spectrum. We also are prepared that some of those people will have differing viewpoints and may not get along. Our only duty will be to ensure that everyone is safe as they exercise their constitutional right to free speech, as I outlined in my previous blog. We are there as a neutral party. The event isn’t about us, and we will remain as uninvolved as possible. But we will have the resources ready should more involvement be needed to maintain safety. 

We don’t know every group or person slated to attend. But as is our practice, we have reached out to organizers of groups who we know will be there so we can work together to ensure everyone’s safety. I want to be clear in stating that we never invite anyone to a demonstration or ask attendees to assist us with enforcement activities in any way.

Based on our conversations with organizers and other information, we created an operations plan. We do this for every rally/protest/demonstration in the city and have extensive experience in keeping these events peaceful and non-violent. We appreciate the thousands of people who have come out to make their voice heard on a number of issues in a peaceful manner. That’s one of the great things about Kansas City: the quality of its people.

To accommodate the demonstration, be aware that Grand Boulevard will be closed Saturday morning and afternoon from Pershing to about 25th Street. Emergency no-parking signs will be placed around Washington Square Park, so if you park on the street in that area, please move your vehicle by Friday night to prevent it from being towed. If you are going to Crown Center, you can still access their parking garage from the south entrance. Just be aware there could be traffic delays and/or trouble finding a parking spot around the park. We also are notifying businesses in the area of the planned demonstration.

The public can expect to see high police visibility in and around the park during the event. Keep in mind these all are officers on special assignment. None have been pulled from patrol in other areas.

There was a similar demonstration at Washington Square Park in June with about the same amount of people as are expected this weekend, and everything went well. And on Tuesday night, there was a large demonstration in support of “Dreamers” which was very peaceful. In those cases, we also communicated with organizers beforehand, and everyone was able to share their views while following the law.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department wants a peaceful demonstration Saturday and at all future events, and our goal is to facilitate that.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The truth about how we respond to demonstrations and protests

Despite online rumors and conspiracy theories, let me be clear that the Kansas City Missouri Police Department never invites any person or groups to a demonstration. The KCPD does not sanction any demonstration events. In regard to a protest on Aug. 19, 2017, we never asked for any assistance from any militia group, nor would we.

The sole purpose of KCPD’s presence at any demonstration, rally or protest is to ensure everyone can peacefully and safely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights to speech and assembly.

Police cannot and will not favor one side over another, no matter how that group may align with our own personal ideals. Officers are only there to maintain peace. As a former Tactical Enforcement commander, I have done this many times. One of the most memorable – and an example of protecting constitutional rights even when we disagree with the message – is when KCPD was assisting the city of Joplin, Mo., after they were ravaged by a tornado in May 2011. A man who supported a group well known for hateful speech came to Joplin, and counter protests from a number of groups were planned. President Obama was scheduled to tour Joplin’s devastation on the same day. Dozens of KCPD officers were trying to maintain peace and order. Due to the building hostility, our officers tried to form a barrier between that particular demonstrator and counter-protestors when several people broke through and tried to attack the demonstrator. My fellow squad members and I tackled the demonstrator to protect him from the onslaught, and then we had to run him out of the crowd surrounded by officers. We undoubtedly saved his life, but ultimately we weren’t there to protect him. We were there to protect the Constitution.

KCPD members will speak with anyone who asks them questions about the safest way to go about a demonstration. A contact is not the same as “collusion,” which some on social media are alleging.


In fact, if police are aware of demonstrations in advance, we have a long-standing practice to reach out to event organizers days or weeks beforehand to give them a point of contact and trade concerns. Some groups even tell us how many people plan to be arrested.

Our policy reinforces what every officer is commanded to do at a demonstration: remain neutral and protect rights, people and property. This is what our policy states:

“A. All citizens have a constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest. This department has a professional mandate to safeguard and protect all citizens as they exercise their constitutional rights.

“B. The role of law enforcement officers at a peaceful demonstration or strike scene is to protect life and property and keep the peace. Officers must assume and maintain a neutral and impartial demeanor toward the issues of the demonstration or strike.”

You can see the full policy on our web site (the Response to Protest section begins on p. 18).

Note the section that says officers will “maintain a neutral and impartial demeanor toward the issues of the demonstration or strike.”

A recent petition calls for us to cordon off people like militia members at future protests. Our department has a number of practices to maintain peace and order at such events, and we use the minimum amount of intervention and/or force necessary. Commanders were on scene closely monitoring the situation on Aug. 19 to determine whether any greater levels of intervention might be needed. At one point, a confrontation did start between the two groups, and we used a low-level intervention – officers on horses – to separate them.

KCPD will remain as uninvolved as we can to allow for the free expression of ideas. We cannot ask one group to leave a public park or other public area. If two families show up in a park, we can’t tell one to stay and one to leave, and the same applies to protest groups.

Our only goal is to create a safe environment for everyone exercising their rights and for those who may be nearby.