Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflecting on my third anniversary as Chief of Police

Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of leading an organization filled with talented, dedicated, compassionate and professional employees. Since being appointed chief of police on October 13, 2011, I have experienced a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth thanks to many. 

Both my immediate and extended family have been nothing but supportive and encouraging during my entire 29 years of employment with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.  I am so blessed and appreciative to have them in my life. Same goes for my few close groups of friends who look out for my well-being, several of whom contact me daily.   

My faith-based supporters are very much appreciated as they have prayed for me regularly as well as remind me that I work for God and not for man.  Oftentimes I have made decisions that others question, which I encourage and welcome, but please know that I pray before making most major decisions and will follow the guidance of my heavenly Father. Thus far, when I have listened to him, many crises have been averted.

What I am most encouraged about during my tenure as chief is the reduction in the number of homicides in Kansas City. The reduction in the number of homicides committed this year is unparalleled during the past five decades. The credit for the reduction is only in part due to the efforts of the police department. Many organizations, programs and individuals are contributing to making our city safer than it has been for decades. Oftentimes when I respond to homicide scenes, I observe witnesses openly sharing information with detectives. Many are willing to respond to Police Headquarters to provide formal statements.

Even media coverage of violent crimes has diminished. My observations over the past 18 months have revealed less doomsday coverage from some of the local media outlets. During a brief period of my tenure as chief, I and others noticed an increase in negative coverage, even when there had been no increase in violent crimes.  Responsible reporting has, without a doubt, contributed to increasing the feelings of safety in some parts of our community. People tend to want to get involved more when they feel as though the situation is not hopeless.

We should not become complacent, nor should we claim victory. There is no cause to celebrate the still too-high number of senseless acts of violence in our city. We must continue to work together to make the greater metropolitan area one of the safest areas in the country.

What I am currently most concerned about is the police department’s inability to attract and retain qualified minority police officers. The number of minority police officers has increased during my tenure as chief, but not to a level where I am satisfied. Institutional racism exists within many organizations, and law enforcement is not exempt. I have noticed that many who broach the subject of recruiting have done little to contribute to solving the problem, but they often espouse to have the solutions for others to implement. The entire community should be responsible for recruiting police officers who can best serve our community. Weekly, in the national spotlight, we hear of negative race-related issues between the police and other segments of the community. These issues are real!  The community has made it clear that increased minority representation is needed. I implore the entire community to get involved. Ask yourself this question, “How might I contribute to increasing diversity?”  You can share your ideas/concerns at Attorney General Koster’s Roundtable on Tuesday, October 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the theater of the Student Union building on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5100 Cherry Street. Several local chiefs of police also will be meeting on Tuesday, at another location, to discuss minority recruitment and other issues. Rest assured that I will continue to keep this issue on the forefront of my agenda. (And FYI, I prayed before I drafted this paragraph.)

Organizational and cultural changes in the police department have been a continuous process and are necessary to gain and nurture community trust. Problem solving will continue to be viewed as a shared responsibility between the police and other segments of the community.

We will continue to practice fiscal discipline throughout the department to ensure continued financial viability and to increase efficiency, avoid periods of stagnation, continue to reach out to the community en masse through social media and by other means, incorporate emerging technologies in our day-to-day operations and to provide high-quality services in a customer-friendly manner.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the Board of Police Commissioners for allowing me to serve our community.  

Please know that I will continue to do what is in the best interest of the entire community and have no plans to retire any time soon. I am often asked how long will I serve as chief and if I have a contract. I will serve until I accomplish what I have set out to accomplish and no, I do not have a contract. By state statute I must retire at age 65. I am 52 years old, so I have almost 13 years of eligibility.

Thanks again to all who have contributed to making my dreams come true!

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