Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Highlights of yesterday's Board of Police Commissioners meeting

Highlights of the November 24 Board of Police Commissioners Meeting:

• Eric Bosch, director of the Capital Improvements Management Office, presented photos of the ongoing construction at the new Metro Patrol Division and said the anticipated opening date would probably be in late May or early June 2010. He also presented drawings of buildings planned for the new South Patrol and Special Operations divisions.

• City Councilman John Sharp, vice chair of the Council’s Public Safety and Neighborhoods Committee, asked the department to consider joining the city’s self insurance plan.

He also asked Chief Corwin to consider committing police department members to the city’s new committee to review dress code issues and compliance at the Power and Light District, as opposed to participating in the committee sponsored by Power and Light owner Cordish, which would be tasked with the same thing. Chief Corwin said he had spoken with Cordish President Zed Smith and thought it would be inappropriate for police to enforce corporate policies on either committee. He said the department is tasked with enforcing only ordinances, statutes and laws, not private policies. If police had to arrest Power and Light employees for violating city dress code ordinances, they could face a conflict of interest if police also served on the committee that oversaw the dress code. Two Commissioners also expressed concern about separation of powers and conflicts of interest. Chief Corwin said that while he has not yet made his decision, he is leaning toward not having police participate on either the City’s or Cordish’s dress code committee.

• Deputy Chief Kevin Masters reported that the Cold Case Squad is re-investigating the death of Charles McNeil, which was originally ruled a suicide. McNeil’s family requested a new investigation at the October Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

• Chief Corwin reported that from 2005 to present, total Part 1 crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, stealing, auto theft and arson) in Kansas City have fallen 20 percent.

• Deputy Chief Cy Ritter said the department and public are beginning to feel the effects of fewer officers on the street due to budget cuts. From July to September 2009, median response times have risen from 5.85 minutes to 6.19 minutes, despite July having a higher number of calls for service than September. D.C. Ritter cited the following reasons why:
- Because of staffing shortages in the Headquarters Detention Unit, there are no longer civilian detention officers at any of the six patrol divisions. Police officers must now serve as detention officers.
- Only three of the six stations’ detention units are open at any one time, causing police to have to drive further and spend more time out of service to drop off arrests.
- Just as the hiring freeze has not allowed the department to hire any more civilian detention officers, it has prevented the hiring of any desk clerks for the stations. Several of those positions are now vacant and must be filled by officers who would normally be on the streets.

Chief Corwin said a recent “Right-Sizing Committee” had just surveyed and reviewed the job duties of all the department’s civilian employees to determine where the most critical needs were. When the recommendations are released, some civilian employees will be transferred to different jobs to fill the most critical spots, and others will take on the duties of two positions. Deputy Chief Rachel Whipple said no one will lose their job or take a pay cut through this initiative.

• D.C. Ritter said the National Catholic Youth Conference – which brought 22,000 high school students and 4,000 adults to downtown Kansas City last weekend – went off without any major incident. He said that was largely the result of 18 months of planning for the event by Captain Rick Smith. Many of the attendees praised and thanked police for their work.

• Major Patty Higgins and Captain James Connelly presented all the accomplishments of the Blue Project, which began in 2006 with an outside audit of the department’s practices. That audit had more than 230 recommendations, and they were broken up into eight task forces composed of more than 200 department members for completion. Those task forces have now finished their work, and the department has met its goals of increasing satisfaction scores on the City’s Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

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