Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Highlights of today's Board of Police Commissioners Meeting

Highlights of the Oct. 27, 2009, Kansas City Missouri Board of Police Commissioners Meeting

* MGT of America presented the results a study commissioned by the Board to review the Department’s mandatory retirement policy. This policy requires law enforcement officers to retire after 30 years of service and has been in place since 1956. MGT consultants said in police departments nationwide, mandatory retirement ages are becoming a thing of the past. They said chronological age is a poor predictor of physical capabilities. Commissioners had expressed concern that extending the retirement age might lead to stagnation in the ranks and lower morale. MGT surveyed KCPD’s approximately 1,400 law enforcement members and received about 1,100 responses. They concluded “a majority were at least indifferent to the idea of extending the retirement age, if not open to changes in the retirement policy, provided there is also a possibility of a corresponding increase in retirement benefits.” The study also concluded that members’ concerns about the promotional process could be tempered by requiring set years of service before an officer could become a sergeant or captain. MGT consultants recommended that KCPD adopt a comprehensive wellness program and possibly implement physical testing. The commissioners said the study gave them several options to consider, which they will continue to do over the next several months. They said they also will consider the effect of officers working longer on the fiscal health of the law enforcement retirement system.

* Chief James Corwin said he will be working to put together a committee that will be tasked with getting the Public Safety Sales Tax renewal on the April 2010 ballot. The committee would include City Council members and members of the Board of Police Commissioners. The current sales tax, which was approved by voters in 2002, is set to sunset in June 2011. It funds capital improvements for the police department.

* Chief Corwin also discussed KCPD providing security for the Municipal Court. He said officers used to be called to every court appearance, even though many cases were simply continued, and the officers could have been putting their time to better use. Now, they only appear in municipal court when testimony will take place in a case. The end result was that far fewer officers were in the municipal court at any given time, which caused the presiding judge to be concerned about court security. A private security company provides security at the entrances, but no armed guards are present in the court rooms. The U.S. Marshal’s Office conducted a study and found that to adequately provide security at the court, the cost would be $500,000 annually. Chief Corwin said he is waiting on a final operational plan, but preliminarily, a traffic squad will be taken off the street to provide court security as well as supplement the Downtown Footbeat officers. Commissioner Patrick McInerney said he was concerned about trained traffic officers being used for court security purposes and was worried police might be called upon to provide security at other city facilities. Mayor Mark Funkhouser and Chief Corwin said they would try to seek resources to both provide security and keep officers on the street.

* During public comments, the family of Charles McNeil, who was found dead in a car in June 2008, asked police to reopen their loved one’s case. The death had been ruled a suicide by a former medical examiner, but the family asked police to investigate it as a homicide. Board Vice President Karl Zobrist asked Chief Corwin to designate someone to look into the investigation and keep the board and family abreast of its progress.

* Deputy Chief Cy Ritter said that despite the police force being down by 91 officers (48 vacancies and 43 who are sick, injured or on military leave), police continued to meet response-time goals in September with a median response time of 6.19 minutes. He said geographically large, suburban, patrol divisions like Shoal Creek Patrol are particularly down officers, and thus have higher response times. Shoal Creek’s median response time in September was 8.44 minutes.

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