Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women breaking ground at KCPD

Diversity means a lot more than different skin colors. It means a variety of life experiences, socioeconomic backgrounds, geography, education level and more. In a traditionally male arena like law enforcement, it also means gender.

Since I was appointed chief, I’ve recognized the importance of having women represented throughout all ranks of the police department – not as tokens but as leaders. Last fall marked the first time the KCPD ever has had two female deputy chiefs at the same time. Cheryl Rose heads up the Patrol Bureau and Patty Higgins, whom I promoted last fall, is over the Professional Development and Research Bureau. I trust these women with some of the most important functions of this department: overseeing the training of and policies for new and existing officers and directing the 900-some patrol officers who are the front lines of our police force.

Two of our other executive positions also are filled by women – General Counsel Virginia Murray and Associate General Counsel Jamie Cook. And Major Robin Houston is just the second woman on the department in my memory (and I’ve been here 26 years) who has served as commander of the Fiscal Division. She is charged with overseeing the department’s budget and expenditures.

And while women have previously broken into other male-dominated areas of the department such as Traffic Enforcement and tactical squads, another woman this year has gone where none had gone before: firearms instruction. After a successful tenure in the Homicide Unit, Detective Venasa Ray became KCPD’s first-ever female firearms instructor. She teaches recruits and officers how to handle and use their weapons, and she’s an excellent shot.

With 582 of them, females comprise 29.2 percent of KCPD employees department-wide. That includes non-sworn, civilian staff. Females comprise just 14 percent of our law enforcement officers, and we are working to increase that number.

In fact, one of my priorities is to increase diversity of all kinds throughout the department. It’s not just a men-and-women issue, nor is it just a black-and-white issue. We want department members who were raised in different ways and who know different things. They need to have a few things in common, though: be of high integrity and have a desire to serve the residents of Kansas City and keep them safe. Do you think you fit the bill? Go to the careers page on our web site and learn how to apply.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kansas City Police increase security in wake of Colorado shootings

A horrible tragedy took place today in Aurora, Colo., with a gunman killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in a crowded movie theater. Our hearts are with the victims and their families as they try to cope with unthinkable trauma and loss.

The victims were regular people going about their regular lives – not doing anything risky or dangerous. This makes many of us question, “Could something like that happen to me?” We have received several inquiries today about how Kansas City Police might handle a similar incident. While we pray nothing like this ever will happen again in Kansas City or anywhere else, KCPD is very prepared if it does. One of my strategic objectives when I became Chief was to enhance the police department’s ability to respond to critical incidents.

This morning, we arranged for increased police presence in and around movie theaters. These police will be both in uniform and covert. KCPD also uses an Asset Protection Response System for several local facilities. Through this, police have blueprints and layouts of many locations in Kansas City where large groups of people gather, from schools to hospitals to businesses. Officers can pull these up in their police cars to help them better navigate a location and get to a threat quickly.

In the case of movie theaters specifically, many in Kansas City, Mo., employ off-duty Kansas City Police officers for security and/or have other security measures in place.

All the police presence in the world, however, sometimes cannot be enough to stop a disturbed individual with a weapon. That is why it is immensely helpful for members of the public to report anyone they see acting suspiciously. Do not hesitate to call 911 in such a situation.

Additionally, our officers train for active-shooter scenarios frequently, and that training is constantly updated. When a tragic incident like that in Aurora takes place, we evaluate what happened and use it to enhance our training and response.

The shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 taught us a tragic lesson: in an active shooter scenario, police cannot wait for specialized tactical teams to arrive. That is why all of our patrol officers are trained to respond to and eliminate the threat of an active shooter as quickly as possible. Officers rehearse these scenarios everywhere from high schools to banks.

That preparedness was evident in April 2007 when a man armed with a gun killed two people in the parking lot of Ward Parkway Center and then made his way inside while continuing to fire at anyone he could. Dozens of police were on the scene in minutes. One patrol officer quickly tracked the suspect down in the mall and shot him, fatally wounding him before he could hurt anyone else.

Give your thoughts and prayers to those who were victims in that movie theater, but don’t let incidents like what happened in Colorado prevent you from carrying on with your day-to-day activities. No one benefits when we live in fear. I’m planning to go to the movies this weekend, myself.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Police are partnering with probation and parole

The police are just one part of the criminal justice system, and we're happy to be strengthening our relationships with other pieces of that system. Read this story from our July Informant newsletter about the new partnership we're forging with Missouri Probation and Parole to increase public safety:

Kansas City Police and Missouri Probation and Parole are working together more closely than ever and are developing a new initiative to prevent high-risk offenders from committing new crimes.

Shortly after he took office in November 2011, Chief Darryl Forté assigned Sergeant Gary Cooley to get KCPD more involved in the process of offenders re-entering the community after serving prison time. Sergeant Cooley said one thing was glaringly evident from the start.

“There was a big gap between the police department and Probation and Parole,” Sergeant Cooley said. “… They’re eager for a positive, working relationship with police.”

His role has morphed into that of liaison between the police department and Missouri Probation and Parole. Shari Morlang, the Probation and Parole District 4 Administrator, said this is the first time in her 20 years that there has been someone so closely connecting the two agencies.

Cooley said although both organizations have the same goal of public safety, there are several misconceptions police have about Probation and Parole and vice versa. Morlang said having the police liaison position is helping eliminate those.

“One goal of working with Sgt. Cooley is to cross-train and educate each other on our duties and requirements so we have a better understanding,” she said.

This new relationship is leading to a pilot program aimed at increasing public safety: Safety Through Accountability and Community Collaboration, or STACC. Set to launch before the first of September, STACC seeks “to provide intervention, education and accountability to high-risk offenders within the Kansas City, Missouri, Metropolitan area.”

Sergeant Cooley is working with Probation and Parole staff to identify offenders who are most likely to recommit violent crimes upon their release from prison. He, Probation and Parole staff and other police officers will then closely monitor those offenders upon their release into the community. STACC will assist with job and life skills training, housing and other resources to assist the offender with re-integrating into the community.

“This is not a ‘hug-a-thug’ program,” Cooley said. “… STACC will support them if they want to change. If not, we will intervene as quickly as possible before they commit another crime.”

Cooley said offenders identified to be part of STACC will meet with police and Probation and Parole as soon as they are released from prison, followed by several in-home visits.

“It’s puts another layer of accountability in their minds to know that not just Probation and Parole, but also police, are keeping an eye on them,” he said.

Morlang said she is eager to see what STACC can accomplish.

“This is a great opportunity for the agencies to work together to help participants move toward living a more productive, crime-free and fulfilling life while strengthening families and neighborhoods at the same time,” she said. “This really is a win-win for everyone, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Through STACC and his other work, Sergeant Cooley anticipates greater communication between Probation and Parole and police. One of his goals is to notify patrol officers when an offender is released from prison or put on probation in the area they serve.

“I never got that kind of information when I was in the field, and I would have really appreciated it,” he said.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Everything goes according to plan for police during All-Star events


From a public safety perspective, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game events went very smoothly in Kansas City.

“To say it went well is an understatement,” said Major Rich Lockhart, who coordinated police operations for the event. “It was a huge team effort that showcased Kansas City on a national stage.”

About 300 police personnel were devoted to the events throughout the city, with an additional 85 officers working inside Kauffman Stadium. Regular neighborhood patrols were not affected. Officers working All-Star events were on special assignment.

Most baseball fans seemed to be on their best behavior, too, with police making very few arrests. One person was taken into custody and charged with stealing for breaking into cars. Police also identified a dozen counterfeit game tickets and three victims, and investigation into those continues. The most common problem police encountered – especially at FanFest – were children who became separated from their parents. All were reunited in less than 10 minutes.

Thanks to a change in the weather, fewer than 10 people received medical treatment for heat-related issues.

Major Lockhart said the geographic scope of events presented a special challenge. Other cities that have hosted the All-Star Game had events concentrated in one downtown area. Kansas City had FanFest and the Charity 5K run Downtown, the Chevrolet Red Carpet Parade on the Plaza and the games several miles east at Kauffman Stadium.

“I didn’t hear one bad thing,” he said. “It says a lot about the level of planning and the level of professionalism by everyone.”

The Kansas City City Council will honor the Police and Fire departments with a resolution at 3 p.m. Thursday recognizing their work coordinating All-Star events.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Police are ready for All-Star week

Today marks the official kick-off of Major League Baseball All-Star Game events in Kansas City, and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is more than ready.

We have been planning for this event for more than a year, when we sent a delegation of KCPD commanders to Phoenix last July to learn how their city handled the event. Since then we have created a comprehensive plan and tested it with both the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and a full-scale exercise in April. The plan even received a U.S. Army “Red Team” review from the staff and students at the prestigious University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth. We also have set up a text message alert system to keep you aware of traffic issues and any emergencies that may arise. Sign up by texting ALLSTARKC to 888777.

We have ensured we have as many resources available from July 6-10 as possible. Only department members who submitted their requests six months in advance were allowed to take vacation time during All-Star events so we can have the maximum number of personnel on duty. At any given time, there will be about 300 police officers dedicated specifically to All-Star events throughout the city in the next five days. This will not affect regular neighborhood police presence. These officers are on special assignment. We are pulling them from every element of the department – from D.A.R.E. to the Internal Affairs Unit. Even Police Academy Recruits will be assisting. The city has allotted $250,000 for overtime to cover additional staffing costs.

In addition to the many more officers you will see, there will be many officers and non-sworn department members working behind the scenes you won’t. Everyone from dispatchers to commanders will be working in the City’s Emergency Operations Center, command posts, at Kauffman Stadium and in and around hotels and other area attractions. Some will be among the crowds in plain clothes looking for suspicious activity. Others will be watching security camera feeds while still others will be gathering and analyzing intelligence.

The public should be aware of some traffic issues that will take place during All-Star events. Expect congestion around Bartle Hall downtown for the Fan Fest and around Kauffman Stadium. Two big events also will cause road closures: the Charity 5K and Fun Run that will be downtown on the morning of Sunday, July 8, (click to see the  5K route map), and the Red Carpet Parade that will be on the Plaza on Tuesday, July 10 (click to see the parade route map). Cars parked on the Plaza will need to be moved by 10 p.m. July 9. Anyone attending All-Star events should take the same precautions we always give: do not leave items of value in your vehicle and be aware of your surroundings. Trust your gut.

While KCPD has played a big role in planning for the security of Kansas City playing host to the All-Star Game, we could not have done it with our local, state and federal partners. They include: The Kansas City Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management, the Jackson and Platte County Sheriff’s Departments, the Independence Police Department, the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Kansas City Regional Terrorism Early Warning Center, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We all have worked together very well to ensure you have the most fun and safest baseball experience possible.

At KCPD, we are proud to be ambassadors for Kansas City, and we look forward to serving and protecting those who attend the All-Star Game events.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.