Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Partnerships increase safety on KC's public transit

Every city needs a vibrant public transportation system. Every resident of our city should to be able to safely get to work, school, libraries, stores and more, regardless of whether they own a vehicle. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (a.k.a. RideKC) provides the transportation through buses and the streetcar. Our role is to keep public transit safe, and we’re trying to accomplish that through partnerships.

For more than 20 years, dozens of off-duty KCPD officers have worked in a security capacity on Kansas City’s buses and at RideKC transit hubs. We’ve had many off-duty officers also provide security on the Downtown Streetcar since it launched in 2016.

But we took this partnership one step further. Last year, we established a Transit Unit with the KCATA. Two officers are assigned full time to patrol bus stops and routes and respond to any incident involving a KCATA bus. KCATA Chief Executive Officer Robbie Makinen said this when the agreement was formalized: “Our partnership with KCPD has always been strong, and it’s getting stronger.” I concur.

We’re happy to see this partnership keeping riders and drivers safe. The American Public Transportation Association announced KCATA won a Gold Award in its 2017 Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards in May. Among other things, the award recognized the KCATA-KCPD partnership as an innovative effort. This partnership and other security steps taken by KCATA have resulted in a 47 percent decrease in operator assaults from the prior year.

I’ve also lost track of how many great social media posts we’ve gotten from people riding the Streetcar who are happy the police are there. They often send us pictures they’ve taken with the officers and say how much they appreciate the officers’ presence and positive attitudes.

This partnership with KCATA is just one of many ways we are working with organizations and individuals throughout the area to make our city safer for everyone. I’ll be sharing more on this blog about other partnerships we have and that we are working to develop on to enhance safety in our community.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Budget request echoes community concerns

Last week, our department submitted our requested budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 (which would begin May 1, 2018) to the City Manager’s Office. Ultimately, the City Council will vote on this request, as well as those from all other city departments. Our proposed budget contains requests to fund everything from fuel to employee health insurance, but there are a few major items I want to share with you.

They are requests to fund 21 new dispatcher positions and 30 new patrol officer positions. We realize this is a request for additional tax dollars, and there are many other needs in the city, as well. But with our current staffing, we are unable to provide the kind of service taxpayers expect, so I believe these additional positions would be a very wise investment. These requests have been echoed by the community.


Many people are put on hold when they call 911 because our Communications Unit is under-staffed. The average 911 hold time for our department increased from 26 seconds in August to 30 seconds in September. This is unacceptable to both the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and the community we serve. When you call 911 in a crisis, you should get an immediate response. During the public forums for the Chief of Police selection process this past summer and the meet-and-greets I’ve attended this fall, residents have told me over and over again how concerned they are about being put on hold when calling 911. It’s a major community concern, and it should be.

We are hiring and processing as many people as we can to get our numbers back up to where they should be, but our current budgeted positions are not enough, according to a staffing study and national public safety telecommunication organizations. Twenty-one new dispatcher positions would cost $1,071,000 in FY 2018-19. I firmly believe that is a very wise investment for timely response to emergencies. While these additional dispatcher positions would bring us more in line with comparable cities, we would still remain on the high side of number of calls per dispatcher, compared to those cities and national standards.


For the last two years, as our officer numbers have decreased to stay within budget, our response times have increased, peaking at a citywide average of 9 minutes and 20 seconds for Priority 1 calls in November 2016. We’ve been working to bring them down since then. With some Academy classes coming through, we’re back to an average of about 8 minutes citywide, but some areas like North Patrol Division still experience an average of 9 and a half minutes for a response in an emergency. I also know many people in our city with lower-priority calls like home burglaries and non-injury accidents wait hours for a police response. That is not acceptable to KCPD or the community we serve, either.

After consulting with the Patrol Bureau, we determined 30 additional patrol officer positions are the minimum we need to improve response times. More than 30 officers would be very beneficial, as well, but we are cognizant of the other budgetary needs of the City and therefore limited our request in this proposed budget. Patrol officers are the backbone of this department, and in my view, everything else KCPD does is to support the patrol function. Also included in our budget is a request to civilianize several analytical positions on the department so those officers can get back in the field, as well.

For this year, those new officers would not come on until mid-year after other Academy classes have graduated, so our request for these officers in FY 2018-19 would cost $720,000. Again, we believe that is a small price to pay for the timely police service taxpayers expect and deserve.


What is not requested in this budget but should be on everyone’s radar are our technology needs. Many of our major technological systems are 10 or more years old and coming to the end of their life cycles, including in-car cameras and computers, E-ticketing machines, and our portable radio system. Replacement of the radio system alone is estimated to be $9 million and must happen within the next four years. The decision of whether to implement body cameras also will be steered by whether we have updated in-car camera and computer systems that could be compatible with them. It’s a logical progression.

I want the community to know that we are working to address the issues of timely 911 and patrol officer response, as well as the technology that makes those responses possible, like in-car computers. I look forward to working with the City staff and City Council in providing improved police service to the people of Kansas City while keeping in mind all of the city’s other needs, as well.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The KCPD and our regional partners are ready respond to all critical incidents

We are all still reeling from and horrified by the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night. That kind of act will never make sense. When something like this happens, we often wonder, “Could that happen to me? Could that happen in Kansas City?” Unfortunately, this is a possibility in any city in America, or in the world.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department constantly trains for the possibility that it could. You should be confident that the Department is ready to respond to any type of critical incident and to coordinate with regional resources, if necessary.

Obviously, the greatest tool for a critical incident is prevention. We have analysts, officers and detectives working every day to gather and analyze information about individuals and groups that could pose a threat to the safety of our community. They need your help to do this. If something strikes you as suspicious, please give us a call and let us know. We’ve been told to do this with terrorism: “If you see something, say something.” That’s applicable in other criminal areas as well, such as brewing disputes that could escalate into violence. You could save a life by being aware and willing to share your concerns with us.

At this time, it does not appear there was anything law enforcement could have done to prevent what happened in Las Vegas. We know we can’t prevent everything but we can be prepared for it, and we are. Every officer on this department undergoes training for active shooter situations, and our Tactical Response Teams train for critical incidents on a weekly basis. We do regular table-top exercises for mass shootings and other large-scale critical incidents, including natural disasters. We work with many entities on these simulated incidents, such as the Kansas City Fire Department, Public Works, Health Department, Kansas City Power and Light, Spire (formerly MGE) and local hospitals. Just last month, we did a large-scale, two-day, tabletop exercise with critical incident scenarios that included working with hospitals in our region. Kansas City and the surrounding area are prepared.

In addition to our patrol officers, Tactical Response Teams are designed to handle critical incidents, and our teams are on duty day and night. They have numerous tools and equipment to gain access to barricaded active threats, just like the brave officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department set out to do when approaching the shooter’s hotel room door on Sunday night. Explosive breaching is one of the tools we have in our toolbox.

One of the great things about the Kansas City area is the level of regional cooperation we enjoy. Were a mass casualty incident to take place anywhere in the metro, we have everything in place to respond to it together within minutes: regional assistance agreements, radio interoperability and experience working together. That’s because we also train and cooperate regionally through agencies like the Mid-America Regional Council and the Metropolitan Tactical Officers Association (MTOA). The state line is irrelevant in critical incidents. The MTOA lobbied both legislators in Kansas and Missouri to change laws to allow officers on both sides of the state line to respond and assist in a critical incident. If a large incident were to take place in a neighboring city – even on the other side of the state line – we stand ready to assist their police department, and we know they are ready to assist us. One phone call or radio transmission is all it would take.

But that is the kind of thing we will do if needed. It’s not typical, but we will work with KCFD to ensure everyone receives the medical care they need as fast as they can. Many things won’t be typical in a mass casualty incident, but all first responders and medical personnel will be coordinating to ensure care is delivered as quickly as possible.

Of course we hope and pray nothing like what happened at Las Vegas or in terrorist attacks around the globe could happen to us or our loved ones, but as law enforcement, we have to be prepared for the possibility. We review these other incidents to see what we can learn and incorporate those lessons into our training and sometimes even into our equipment.

We realize events like this can be traumatizing to many individuals. I’m sure some would think about going to an outdoor concert differently than they did prior to this event. But don’t let evil win. Don’t change your lifestyle or refrain from participating in events you enjoy. Stay vigilant; if you see something say something to help keep others safe, so we all can continue to enjoy the freedom this country offers.

Our hearts are with everyone who was impacted by the horrible events that occurred in Las Vegas, including the first responders who ran toward the gunfire and had to endure such carnage. Rest assured, the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are ready to do the same.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org