Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We're following up on New Year's Eve gunfire

These shell casings were all from one address in East Patrol Division after New Year's Eve.
Officers sorted them by caliber and type.

The New Year’s Eve celebration of two weeks ago may be a distant memory for some, but police are still hard at work following up on reports of illegal celebratory gunfire. Despite our pleas and enforcement, despite an 11-year-old girl previously being killed by such behavior, and despite the damage it does to property, people continued to engage in celebratory gunfire as 2018 turned to 2019. You can see some of what it was like from Central Patrol Division by reading through our Twitter feed that night, when we did a tweet-along with officers from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This year, as every other year, officers had to take cover around midnight for their protection. 

The ShotSpotter gunshot detection system covers 3.5 square miles of the city that have a high rate of gun violence and shots fired. Using that and recovered shell casings, officers found one address where 360 shots were fired on New Year’s Eve night, and they were from at least nine different guns, based on the calibers of the shell casings. In just East Patrol Division, officers recovered 180 additional shell casings from at least 13 other incidents.

Officers recovered several spent bullets from the parking spot of the East Patrol Division commander, Major Greg Volker, at the station. If he had been there getting out of his car at that time, he would have been hit. It is only dumb luck that prevented another horrible tragedy like what happened to Blair Shanahan Lane. As of noon on New Year’s Day, we’d taken two reports of property damage consistent with celebratory gunfire: one to a garage and the vehicle inside it, and another to a vehicle’s window. We know there’s probably much more out there that wasn’t reported.

From 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. Jan. 1, we received 301 calls to 911 about the sound of gun shots. The ShotSpotter system recorded 109 alerts during the same period. ShotSpotter can distinguish between gunfire and fireworks (there were those, too).

So what are we doing about it? We are gathering evidence so that as many people who illegally discharged firearms on New Year’s Eve (which is prohibited by City ordinance) can be issued citations if possible. It’s likely that some of those discharging firearms cannot legally possess a gun (because they are convicted felons, for example), so we are working with our federal partners to build those cases, as well.

New Year’s Eve should be a time of celebration and joy, not hiding in your basement with your children, as one terrified mom tweeted to us she was doing. We are doing our best to hold those accountable who wantonly risked the lives and safety of their neighbors.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Conclusion of the investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section


I'd like to discuss the conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Unit. I think it’s very important to share what we’ve done to correct problems, protect our city’s most vulnerable victims and restore trust in the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.

Sincerely, I am disappointed. This investigation revealed issues with the organization as well as individual commanders, supervisors and detectives. I am disappointed because I know we are better than this. On behalf of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, I want to apologize to the children and families who did not receive the service they should expect from us. I also want to apologize to the people of Kansas City, who rightfully expect their police department to provide excellent service to vulnerable victims. You will see our improvement in the steps we’ve taken to correct these problems and provide exemplary service and justice.

Investigation Findings
I’ll share the findings of the internal investigation, the cases of which generally transpired from 2011 to 2016. It identified two areas where failure occurred: at the organizational level, and at the individual level.

Organizationally, failure reached to the highest levels of this Department. There were no processes in place within this organization to address the issues of detectives’ caseloads growing too large. For example, one detective was trying to investigate 80 cases a month. Another detective said he inherited 72 cases the day he started in the unit. Their pleas for more people and more resources went unheard by command staff.  The Department also failed to ensure commanders, supervisors and detectives took adequate quality and control measures in case management, meaning how to best balance caseloads and allocate time.

The investigation also identified personal failures among commanders, supervisors and detectives. Among these were failure to address caseload issues, failure to follow up on some cases in a timely manner and ultimately failure to submit cases prepared most effectively for prosecution.

Investigative Process
This investigation took considerable time. We did not want to sacrifice a thorough review for expediency. Our Internal Affairs Unit generated 28 binders of investigative documents in this case. Working with other department members, Internal Affairs ultimately identified 149 cases from the Crimes Against Children Section that did not receive the attention they needed. On each of those cases, our internal investigators had to determine who did what, when they did it, and what was not done.  The members of the Crimes Against Children Section were given opportunity to tell their sides of the story, as well.

Those 28 binders of investigative documents were turned over to a specially selected internal work-group composed of members with various ranks and experience to review and inspect the Internal Affairs case files. The work-group members were pulled off of their regular duties and assigned to devote 100 percent of their time to review the investigation and make both procedural and disciplinary recommendations directly to me. I have reviewed the recommendations of the work group and all the case files. We have now come to a conclusion, which is why we are here today.

Investigation Results
This investigation resulted in internal disciplinary measures being recommended against 17 members who were assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section or its chain of command.  These recommendations ranged from disciplinary counseling to termination.  Of the 17 members recommended for discipline, seven are no longer employed by the Department. According to state statute, I cannot share which members received discipline, and these internal investigative files are not public record.

What We’ve Changed
When the extent of case management issues within the Crimes Against Children Section came to light, the department took the unprecedented step of removing seven detectives and two sergeants from their investigative duties. Other veteran detectives were brought in on special assignment at the beginning of 2016 to take over the cases and prepare them for prosecution. A selection process took place to identify new detectives to be permanently assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section.

Most – if not all – of the families in the 149 cases we identified that had to be re-worked have been notified of the status of their cases. If you are one of these families and still have questions, please call the KCPD Juvenile Section at 816-234-5150. 

The Crimes Against Children Section’s name has changed back to what it was previously called, the Juvenile Section. It is now fully staffed, with the addition of two additional detectives, for a total of 10 detectives and 2 sergeants. This creates an entirely new staff and chain of command for the Juvenile Section.  Staffing for this section will remain a top priority.

In April 2016, our department implemented quality control measures. We have reviewed thousands of cases to ensure both patrol officers and investigators have followed up thoroughly and in a timely fashion on their assigned cases. We also are working with department members to improve case file submissions so they have the greatest possible opportunity for successful prosecution. This has improved our processes and quality across all investigative units, not just the Juvenile Section.

Since I became Chief, all Department commanders now have undergone additional leadership and ethics training to enhance accountability and prevent complacency at every level of the organization. This is beyond our normal training program.

We took the lessons learned from what happened in Crimes Against Children and applied them across all investigative units on the Department. Both a sergeant and captain must review caseloads every month with their detectives. Whenever a detective marks a case as inactive, a supervisor must review it to determine whether that inactivation was appropriate, and a commander must review the supervisor’s recommendations.

We have enhanced our relationship with child advocacy groups and have asked them to hold us accountable. Feel free to ask them how we’re doing. We have Memoranda of Understanding with the Child Protection Center in Jackson County, the Children’s Advocacy Center serving Clay and Platte counties and the Jackson County Children’s Division. In addition to those, Juvenile Section members meet regularly with Children’s Mercy Hospital case workers.

What’s Ahead
The KCPD is working right now to co-locate our Special Victims Unit with the Child Protection Center and the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) in one facility.  The proposal includes on-site representatives from the Missouri Department of Family Services, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Rose Brooks and other social service organizations. The idea for the co-location is to have a “one-stop shop” where victims of child physical and sexual abuse, along with victims of domestic violence and adult sexual abuse, can receive all their services in one place. We believe victims will receive more comprehensive and convenient services by only having to go to one location. This co-location model is currently being used in Dallas, Omaha and San Diego with great success.

We are working with our partners to identify a location and funding for this facility. This should materialize in the near future. This partnership will enhance our ability to serve the most vulnerable victims.

Conclusion
The conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section marks the end of a regrettable time period in which the Kansas City Missouri Police Department failed to serve child victims in the way they needed and deserved. It is my job and the job of everyone in this organization to ensure it never happens again anywhere in this Police Department.

We have worked diligently to recover from this setback and get justice for every child in Kansas City who has experienced abuse or neglect, especially those in the 149 cases we identified. We have implemented training and numerous layers of accountability to ensure all victims get the most professional and effective investigations we can provide. Our partnerships with child advocacy organizations have never been stronger, and we are eagerly anticipating the chance to truly work with them altogether in one building. We look forward to showing you with our actions that the people of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are now, more than ever, dedicated to serve and protect the people of our city with professionalism, honor and integrity.

Thank you,
Chief Richard Smith