Friday, September 16, 2011

Good-bye, and thank you

Today is surreal and bittersweet. I am writing my final blog and leaving what have been my job and my family for more than three decades. I retire today, on the 365th day of my 32nd year of service at the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. I have been immensely honored to have spent the last seven years as Chief of Police of this amazing organization. But I know it’s time to move on and let someone with new ideas take the helm.

Much has changed since I started here in 1979. For just a visual of the evolution, compare a police car then: a button for lights and one for sirens, to one now: in-car computers, digital camera systems, automated license plate readers. That’s a microcosm of how technology has shifted how we do what we do. What has not changed is good ole’ common police sense. The technological tools help, but solving the whodunits and making relationships in neighborhoods, that’s still the same.

I can’t believe sometimes I’ve gotten paid to do what I do. It has been such fun and such a challenge. As chief, every day was different, and the variety was invigorating. Some days fell more on the challenge side – like fighting for the resources the men and women of this department deserve to do their job effectively and be fairly compensated for it.

But other days left me bursting with pride – like when an officer is honored for his or her heroics. Or how the whole department came together to make the organization more efficient through the Blueprint for the Future project. This project brought in outside auditors to analyze KCPD’s processes, and then nearly 200 department members went to work to study and implement the auditors’ recommendations. I also am proud of how far we’ve come with the CSTAR (Comprehensive Strategic Team Accountability Review) process. CSTAR brings commanders together regularly to talk about issues and statistics in their division and how they plan to address problems. It’s been a very effective method in allowing us to determine where best to use our resources and pinpoint career criminals.

I also am humbled that I get to speak with you directly in a forum like this. I started this blog in February 2009 and have posted more than 800 times since. KCPD is a national leader among law enforcement in social media (we’re also on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and are constantly investigating new ways to reach out). I can’t tell you how many times other agencies have asked us how they can replicate what we’re doing to directly communicate with the people they serve.

In many ways, I feel like I’m leaving the department in a good place. Crime has been on the decline for more than a decade. Violent crime fell 12 percent from 2009 to 2010. The residents of this city have firmly supported the department’s capital improvement program, and the investment they made through the Public Safety Sales Tax will ensure KCPD’s capital and equipment needs will be taken care of for years to come. We also enjoy the local, non-political control provided by our governance system. It allows officers to do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders and has numerous checks and balances that make for a very transparent organization.

Many people have asked what I plan to do upon retirement. I have no plans to step back into the public eye any time soon. I will continue my involvement on the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America’s Heart of America Council, where I will promote urban Scouting initiatives. I’ll also keep teaching an MBA course at an area university. Finally, I’ll be part of a working group announced by Gov. Jay Nixon that will work with the Pew Center on the States to look at solutions for prison overcrowding while still maintaining public safety. And I look forward to travelling and spending more time with my family.

Thank you for your support of the dedicated professionals who comprise the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. They cannot do their jobs without it. Finally, thank you for supporting me, especially in this blogging endeavor. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to share my thoughts and the story of this police department directly with all of you, and I hope my successor enjoys it, as well.

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