Monday, June 14, 2021

Police response to those with mental illness has evolved significantly

Few people in Kansas City have as much day-to-day interaction with those experiencing mental illness or substance abuse crises as the members of KCPD. That’s why we have worked diligently for years now to prepare and equip our staff to safely interact with those in crisis, get them to the resources they need and, if possible, keep them out of the criminal justice system.

In the early 2010s, we realized how important it was, so we created a squad of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers dedicated to serving and following up with members of our community with mental illness who came to the attention of law enforcement. They work hand-in-hand with community mental health liaisons (social workers from mental health treatment providers). In 2020 – even among COVID restrictions - this squad responded to 675 calls for service involving those with mental illness. They conducted 464 follow-up visits in addition to that. They contacted homeless individuals 449 times to help them get treatment and housing.

They also conducted extensive mental health awareness and de-escalation training for our KCPD officers and other area law enforcement, as well as community and panel presentations.

Thanks to our CIT squad and social workers, thousands of members of our community got the help they really needed instead of being thrown into the criminal justice system or having a negative encounter with law enforcement.

This squad also was integral to the creation of the Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center (KC-ATC) in the 2600 block of E. 12th Street. It opened in 2016. It’s a public-private partnership between the KCPD, City of Kansas City, Missouri Department of Mental Health and seven Kansas City hospitals. It only accepts patients from police or hospital emergency rooms, and patients must agree to go voluntarily. Before KC-ATC, emergency rooms used to be the only option for police to take those in mental health or substance abuse crisis. Patients often were sent on their way with a prescription for medication and a referral to a mental health care provider. The onus was on the patient to arrange for their own follow-up care, which many were not in the correct mental state to do. At KC-ATC, case workers ensure patients are assigned to their nearest mental health care provider, and that care provider is charged with following up with the patient.

It’s not enough to have just one squad of CIT officers, though. While about 40% of our department’s officers were CIT-certified, having taken the full 40-hour course, I felt every single officer needed to know the basics. Now every sworn KCPD member must take a 2.5-day Introduction to  CIT course. Given their frequent encounters with those in mental health crisis, this is a benefit to both them and the community. We developed this course in collaboration with  CIT International, a not-for-profit organization established in 2006 that is the leader in promoting safe and humane response to those experiencing a mental health crisis. One of our own, Major Darren Ivey, serves on its executive committee. They promote community collaboration using the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Program to assist people living with mental illness and/or addiction who are in crisis.

CIT International is governed by a Board of Directors who come from all aspects of the CIT community: law enforcement, behavioral health, family/advocates, and persons with lived experiences. It’s led by an executive director.

In addition to the Intro to CIT and basic CIT courses, our 911 call-takers and dispatchers also take extensive CIT training. Many of our staff members also have taken CIT courses specific to certain populations such as veterans and youth.

Our department social service workers also have stepped in to assist. They have helped many Kansas City residents in crisis get the resources they need for housing, food, and more. As I stated in a previous blog, police working with social service workers is one of the most safe and effective ways to address ongoing issues in our community that have come to the attention of law enforcement.

Much of our work with those who are in mental illness or substance abuse crisis involves de-escalation. So many facets of our training incorporate de-escalation, and we were one of the leaders in developing it in the mid-2010s. A large portion of our annual firearms training is devoted to preventing use of force encounters. Both our recruit Academy and annual in-service training include both specific de-escalation techniques and how they can be used in a variety of situations, from domestic violence to mental health crises to serving warrants.

As policing evolves, KCPD continues to seek nontraditional responses. Public-private partnerships, social services and de-escalation are all examples of the commitment this Department has to our city.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, May 14, 2021

Hiring freeze depletes police staffing

Within the month of April, our Police Athletic League had 1,019 contacts with youth. In the current school year, three Youth Programs Section officers and one sergeant worked with more than 2,000 students teaching D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. curriculum both virtually and in person in 18 schools.* They spend 15 to 18 hours a week in the classroom. They often eat lunch with students and join them at recess. Before the pandemic, they reached 4,000 children in 30 schools. The relationships our Youth Services Unit builds through these interactions are priceless. They build bridges in the community and help kids make smart choices.

Unfortunately, however, those programs would be among the first to get cut if our current hiring freeze continues. We would have to eliminate elements whose officers primarily are tasked with community policing and relationship building. The officers assigned to those units would be reassigned to answer 911 calls, which is our core duty.

So far in 2021, we are losing 8.5 officers per month to attrition. Last year, the average was 7.58 per month. The number has risen steadily since 2011, when the average officer loss was just 3.25 per month. This usually is not much of an issue because we are able to fill those positions with new recruits coming out of the Academy. We have not had an Academy class since February 2020 due to funding, however, so we have continued to fall farther and farther behind on staffing. We are down 116 officers and do not have the budget to replace them.

If KCPD continues to lose officers at the 8.5 per month rate, we will have 1,151 by April 2022. That is equivalent to the amount of officers KCPD had in 1993, at which time Kansas City, Mo., had a population of about 435,000. Our city now approaches 500,000 in population. The 1,151 number assumes the 8.5 per month loss rate does not increase. Given the increases over the last 10 years, however, it seems that number will continue to climb. 

It takes 10 months of training both in our Academy and in the field until a new officer can operate independently. Hypothetically, if we were able to start a new Academy class on June 1, those recruits would not be in the work force until April 2022. Even then, they would still be on probationary status for an additional six months.

In short, our current hiring freeze is setting the Department back in adequate staffing for years to come.

Practically, what does this look like? I already mentioned the reduction of community outreach programs. Increased response times also will be inevitable. Earlier this week we had to send officers from Shoal Creek Patrol Division north of the Missouri River all the way down to the southern end of the city in South Patrol to answer a 911 call because no one else was available. Residents already are waiting for some time for police to respond to non-injury crashes, burglaries, property damage and other incidents not involving threats to life or safety, and they deserve more prompt service.

Those increased response times will impact other emergency services, as well. Paramedics, EMTs and firefighters rely on police to ensure their safety before entering many types of situations. So far just this year, police have had to render the scene safe for the Kansas City Fire Department nearly 6,100 times. Many of those are medical emergencies in which seconds mean the difference between life or death. A delayed response from police in these situations will put lives on the line.

So far I’ve only discussed the shortage of police officers in the hiring freeze. Our professional staff are experiencing significant reductions, as well. We’re losing about seven non-sworn staff members per month. How does this impact the public? One example is our Crime Laboratory. We are down 11 people there currently, which is 15% of the staff. This will lead to case backlogs and significant delays in solving crimes using science and technology.

The people who live, work and play in Kansas City expect and deserve quality police service. A safe city drives economic development, which improves everyone’s quality of life. Given our current budgetary restrictions, we are increasingly unable to provide the kind of service our community has come to expect.

We are asking for the community’s support to get the funding to end our hiring freeze. The City received $97.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. We ask that you ask your city council members to allocate some of that to the Police Department so that we can provide the timely response, criminal investigations and much-needed community engagement you deserve.


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

 

 * Jackson County COMBAT provides a portion of the funding for our D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. programs.

 

Friday, April 16, 2021

New First Amendment policy responds to community requests

On March 23, our Board of Police Commissioners approved a policy that we have been working toward since early last summer: the First Amendment Protected Activities Policy.

This was a reform requested by our community. The new policy establishes guidelines and procedures for department members when engaging with individuals participating in First Amendment-protected activities.

We take an oath to uphold the Constitution, to include the First Amendment. Protecting everyone’s right to expression is integral to our mission.  

The department did extensive legal research and looked into best practices nationwide to draft the new policy. Members met with community stakeholders, city leaders, prosecutors and others to create the policy that addresses community concerns. As the policy was being created, we revised it multiple times in response to their suggestions.

The new policy directs members to minimize displays of force. It states, “The display of armored vehicles, personal protective equipment or other displays of force will be minimized to the extent safely possible.”

 It also states, “Members will make all reasonable efforts to allow law-abiding individuals to continue to exercise their First Amendment protected rights, and will focus efforts on those individuals in the active assembly who violate the law.”

The First Amendment Policy explicitly prohibits officers from using less-lethal weapons and munitions – other than chemical agents –  to disperse crowds in the event of an unlawful assembly.

We have listened to the changes the community wanted to see, and we have implemented them. We are here to support and protect the exercise of First Amendment rights. More times than I can count, officers have risked their personal safety to shield a demonstrator from violence by a counter-protestor or something similar. We have blocked streets to protect marchers from vehicles on numerous occasions, as we have also protected drivers.

We ask that participants do their part, as well, by respecting the safety and property of others, as the law requires at all other times. It is our duty to balance the freedom of expression with public safety. We are willing to work with any group or individual to coordinate the successful exercise their constitutional rights.

We are working hard to support First Amendment rights, and we look forward to the community supporting the rights of everyone to be safe and secure, as well.


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.   

Friday, January 8, 2021

With KC's 2020 homicide increase below national average and clearance rates above, KCPD works to buck violent crime trends

Kansas City, Mo., was, tragically, part of a national trend that saw a large increase in homicides in 2020. The KCPD, however, is doing everything to buck those trends. Our homicide rate dropped significantly in the fall, and our clearance rate for 2020 was well above the national average.

Not all the national data from 2020 have been compiled yet, but FBI statistics from the first nine months show that homicides were up 20.9 percent in America. In the nation’s 69 largest cities, homicides through Sept. 30, 2020, were up by 28.7%, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Kansas City recorded 148 homicides in 2019 and 176 in 2020. That’s a 19% increase, which was below the national average in increased homicides. (Although right now the national average is composed of just the first nine months of 2020.)  

But all the numbers do not ease the grief of anyone who lost a loved one to violence, and 2020 was, indeed, a record-setting homicide year in our city. That’s why we undertook many initiatives to combat the violence, such as assigning additional homicide and assault detectives and Operation LeGend – a 10-week influx of nearly 200 federal agents to help us solve violent crime cases and get the most violent offenders into custody.

Homicides fell significantly after Operation LeGend, which ran from mid-July to mid-September. You can see the monthly rate of homicides this year compared to the average over the past five years. We cannot definitively say Operation LeGend was the cause, but there was correlation. Before Operation LeGend, we were on pace to have more than 200 homicides in 2020.


We also worked diligently to get justice for those who were killed. Based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Rate (UCR) standard, our homicide clearance rate for 2020 was 73%. That’s up significantly from 2019, when it was 55%. The FBI reported that the national average homicide clearance rate was 61.4% in 2019, the most recent data available. It typically hovers in the low 60s. Despite a higher workload, our investigators were able to bring justice to the loved ones of 128 victims in 2020.

Our clearance rates go against national trends recently noted in the Wall Street Journal, showing that police in the United States have been clearing fewer murders during the pandemic.

Despite being below the national average for homicide increases, the increase was nonetheless devastating for our community. We had 1- and 4-year-old murder victims. Fathers, sons, brothers, mothers, sisters and daughters lost their lives to senseless violence, inflicting untold trauma on families.

The men and women of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, alongside our community, local, state and federal partners, will do everything we can to prevent and solve these crimes. Operation LeGend left us with additional federal resources to stop gun crimes and more. As always, police cannot succeed in a vacuum, so we need the help of residents to make their neighborhoods safer. If you know something that can help us solve or prevent a violent crime, let the TIPS Hotline know at 816-474-TIPS (8477). You could even earn a $25,000 cash reward and stay anonymous.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Social workers belong in law enforcement but cannot replace officers

In the last three weeks, two social workers have been killed in the line of duty. On Nov. 30, a man in Seattle stabbed his caseworker, Kristin Benson, to death. On Dec. 2, a man in Melbourne, Florida, shot and killed Travis Knight, a social worker with whom the suspect had worked at a mental health treatment facility. This also happened to a Kansas City-area social worker in 2004. A 17-year-old in Johnson County attacked his mental health social worker, Teri Zenner, with a knife and chainsaw when she did a home visit in 2004. She died at the scene.

Social work is a dangerous profession. A 2017 CBS News article named it the 20th most deadly job in America, with 1 death per 100,000. (Police and firefighters ranked at No. 15, with 6.2 deaths per 100,000.) But social work also is a very important profession. So much so that we brought them onto the police department to be assigned to work alongside police officers beginning in late 2017. As far as I know, we were the first police department in the United States to employ full-time social workers who work from officer referrals. Before that, our CIT officers were borrowing mental health social workers to come along on calls with them whenever they could.

Social work absolutely has a place in law enforcement, but it cannot replace law enforcement, as many people have demanded this year. People who are in mental health or substance abuse crisis are not stable. They’re not always dangerous, but they can be. The criminal justice system is not the way to treat people with mental illness, but it does work to ensure people’s safety.

An example one of our social workers cites is when she got called along with officers to a woman wearing only a sundress on a freezing January day, walking along a sidewalk with children who also were not dressed appropriately for the weather. That sounds like the perfect call for a social worker, right? With officers nearby, our social worker approached the woman. She talked to the woman and her children, and found out they had been walking in the cold for more than 18 hours non-stop. A toddler in a stroller and none of the other children nor the woman had eaten or drank for that time. The woman was on PCP. After initially talking peacefully to our social worker, the woman became violent, which is not uncommon for users of that drug. Thankfully, the officers were there to step in to stop the woman and protect the social worker and the woman’s own children. The social worker, in turn, was able to get resources for the family immediately.

Many issues come to the attention of police that no amount of enforcement will solve. Social workers have the training, time and resources to address issues police can’t. Our social workers helped us address issues with unruly youth on the Country Club Plaza – an issue we’d tried for years to enforce our way out of with limited success. They’ve gotten resources for families involved in feuds that could have escalated into violence, but with their intervention, did not. They’ve helped individuals contemplating suicide get mental health treatment. They’ve gotten housing for the homeless. Desperate people do desperate things, and our social service workers do an amazing job helping reduce that desperation and the criminal acts that might arise from it.

The reason it works so well is that the police and social workers work together. With police by their sides, the social workers have the luxury of knowing they can safely assist unstable individuals with resources to bring them to stability. And with social workers by their sides, police have the resources to solve what once were hopeless situations. Social workers and cops work better together.

Imagine what would have happened to our social worker after the mother on PCP turned violent. The social worker likely would have been attacked, injured or worse. The mother also presented a safety threat to her own children. Having the police there protected everyone. The social worker, in turn, helped police get care and assistance for the children right away.

I believe this law enforcement-social work partnership is the future of policing in America, and I’m glad we were at the forefront. It has led to very desirable outcomes in Kansas City, and not a single social worker has been injured. It is irresponsible to send untrained, unarmed social workers out to deal with volatile and potentially violent individuals. No call is ever “routine.” But it makes a world of sense to put their specialized training to work alongside law enforcement so they can stay safe while effecting the kind of change police cannot.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org   

 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Honors for heroism show that even in a difficult year, officers haven't wavered in their duty to protect and serve

Friday, Nov. 13, will be the 49th Annual Metropolitan Chiefs and Sheriffs Association Awards for Valor. This event honors officers across the metro area for acts of bravery and heroism, and many KCPD members will be recognized. While this event has happened for nearly 50 years, the year during which these officers performed these acts has been anything but ordinary. We are under more scrutiny than ever before, but still, these officers did not hesitate to run toward danger and put themselves at great risk of harm.

The ceremony will stream live on KCPD’s YouTube Channel. Missouri awards will be presented at 10 a.m., followed by Kansas awards at 11:30 a.m. (The ceremony had to be split this year to accommodate social distancing.)

Some of these incidents you may have heard about, like the officers who stopped a vehicle on the Super Bowl parade route in February. Others, you may have heard a little about – such as our officers getting shot – but didn’t realize all of the heroism behind the scenes. Here are just a few of the Kansas City Missouri Police officers who will be receiving awards and what they did:

Domestic Violence Rescue


Officers Jared Littleton, Devin Jackson and Dakota Stone were all dispatched at 1:30 a.m. July 3, 2019, to an address in the East Patrol Division area, in regard to an armed man. As they neared the address, three children came running towards their police vehicles and told the officers their step-father was cutting their mother with a knife.

 

As they approached the doorway to enter the home, they announced themselves and saw a man with his back to the officers, pinning a woman against the wall. The officers heard a woman scream, “Help me, he is going to kill me!” 

 

The officers immediately gave verbal commands to the man to drop the knife and get on the ground. After a few tense moments, the man finally complied, dropped the knife and laid on the ground where he was taken into custody.

 

The woman was safe from the threat, but she had a severe cut on her left thumb from where the man had cut her with the knife. She told officers the man was her husband and this was not the first time he had threatened to kill her. During this particular incident, she was standing in the living room when her husband grabbed a knife from the kitchen and told her to go the bedroom. She did and the man followed her, but he stopped at her daughter’s room, pointed the knife at her and demanded her cell phone so she couldn’t call the police. During the confrontation, the woman’s son came out of his room yelling, “No daddy, don’t kill my mom!” The man said he didn’t care, he knew the police were coming and he was going to kill her tonight and began to attack her.

 

Thankfully, the officers arrived quickly and made decisive actions, saving the woman and her children from a potentially life-threatening situation, while keeping themselves and the man safe from injuries.

 

Triple-Homicide Suspects Caught Red-Handed

Officers Cody Halterman and Levi Plaschka had been concentrating their patrol efforts on the area of 45th and Benton in October 2019 because a great deal of shootings and narcotics activity were taking place there. On the night of October 17, 2019, they were in that area and heard two groups of gunshots on the same block where they were. They saw a woman carrying a rifle enter a parked car and another man standing nearby. Then they saw a man lying in the street behind the car.

They ordered the woman out of the car, and Officer Plaschka took her into custody. As he was doing so, Officer Halterman heard footsteps and turned to see the man standing by the car running away. Officer Halterman ran after him and eventually caught him in the backyard of a home in the 4500 block of Chestnut.

Meanwhile, Officer Plaschka looked in the car the woman had been in and saw the rifle in the front passenger seat. He then checked on the man lying on the street and found him dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

Once additional officers arrived, Officer Plaschka did a canvass of the immediate area to check for any other possible victims. He found a house with the front door hanging open. He discovered two more victims inside, dead from gunshot wounds. He cleared the rest of the house, finding no one else inside.

Subsequent investigation revealed the woman with the rifle and the man Officer Halterman chased down were responsible for the killing of all three victims, and the rifle was the murder weapon. Because the officers immediately caught both suspects “red-handed,” both suspects were quickly charged with first-degree murder and multiple other charges in the triple homicide.

Officers Stop Bus Shooter

A Kansas City Missouri Police officer who was injured in a shooting on July 2 of this year thankfully survived.

The call started mid-morning with a distress signal from a Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) bus operator. She had just witnessed a stealing at Independence Avenue and Wilson Avenue and the suspect had just entered her bus after committing the theft. The driver stopped the bus at Independence Ave. and Hardesty Ave., where her supervisor met her. To avoid drawing the attention of the suspect, the bus driver told the supervisor there was a problem with the bus.

As suspect got up to question the bus driver about the stop, two marked police vehicles pulled up behind the bus. Officer Sticken was alerted to the distress signal because of his unique assignment as a liaison to the KCATA. Officers Cruz and Gemell were dispatched to the call, as well. Officer Sticken got out of his vehicle and walked alongside the bus toward the front door as Officers Cruz and Gemmell followed from a distance.

The suspect noticed the officers approaching and reached into a bag he was carrying. He pulled out a handgun and began shooting at Officer Sticken from inside the bus. Officer Sticken was shot in the shoulder, after which he retreated to nearby cover and fell to the ground.

The suspect exited the bus and continued shooting at Officer Sticken as he lay on the ground. Officer Sticken recalls hearing the handgun click three times. The suspect then ran to the front of the bus and shot through the windshield, striking the bus operator. He then began to pace near the corner of the intersection, still holding the gun, as Officers Cruz and Gemmell approached him. As he saw the officers coming toward him, he shot at them, but they were able to return fire, causing the suspect to fall to the ground. He was taken into custody, and they promptly rendered aid until paramedics arrived.

Officer Sticken suffered an abrasion to his shoulder that resulted from the shots being fired at him. The bus driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The suspect also had non-life-threatening injuries. The officer was treated and released from an area hospital the same day. The suspect was charged with multiple counts relating to the shootings.

Officer Seriously Wounded, Rescued by Fellow Officers

 

The same day KCPD Officer Sticken was shot, July 2, 2020, another KCPD officer was also shot, placing him in a fight for his life.

 

A call came into dispatch of a man pointing a gun at citizens at a fast food drive-through near 31st and Van Brunt. In the middle of the call, the caller said the suspect had just tried to carjack someone and was acting erratically. Dispatch sent Officers Nathan Anderson and Tyler Webster to the location, and on their way, they made phone contact with the 911 caller. The caller told them the armed suspect was walking south from the location, which the officers relayed to other responding officers. Due to the nature of the call, Sergeant Justin Palmer also responded. Officers Tyler Moss and Mark Diviak also responded to assist.

 

As Officers Diviak and Moss arrived to the scene, an individual began shooting at their police vehicle. They quickly turned their vehicle around and relayed the information to other officers. An “assist the officer” was ‘toned’ out by dispatch. The tone is very distinctive and unforgettable.

 

After shooting at the officers, the suspect ran towards a building in the 3300 block of Stadium Drive. Officers Moss and Diviak exited their vehicle and began to walk in the direction the suspect ran. They were quickly joined by Officers Levi Plaschka and Landon Hartley. Sergeant Palmer and Officers Anderson and Webster also responded. Sergeant Palmer advised all officers to slow down and to move as safely as possible while searching for the suspect.

 

Officers Moss, Diviak, Hartley and Plaschka were already moving one direction, so Sergeant Palmer and Officers Anderson and Webster began to look for the suspect in the other direction. Officer Jamison Raines arrived on the scene and joined the officers. Officers Moss and Plaschka saw the suspect first and gave orders to show his hands. The suspect immediately began shooting at the officers, striking Officer Moss in the head.

 

Officer Moss dropped to the ground. Without hesitation, Officer Plaschka stood over Officer Moss and shot the suspect. Officers Diviak, Hartley, and Anderson quickly grabbed Officer Moss and carried him to safety while Officer Plaschka maintained the safety of the other officers.

 

After hearing the assist the officer tone and then the fateful “officer down” radio transmission, Sergeant Jason Childers immediately responded to the location near where Officer Moss was with the other officers. Sergeant Childers was at the station when the tone went out, having just left the first officer-involved shooting scene from earlier that day. Officer Alisha Shockley also responded to the assist call. With the scene still not safe or secure, Sergeant Childers drove to where the officers had Moss, and they put him into the back of the sergeant’s vehicle. Officer Alisha Shockley jumped into the vehicle and immediately applied pressure to the injury, while Officer Diviak stayed by Officer Moss’ side the entire drive to the hospital. The decision to take Officer Moss in their own vehicle was a matter of life or death. One of Moss’ doctors said at a later press conference. “If his colleagues waited for EMS – and that’s no knock on EMS – but this type of injury, minutes and seconds are vital,”

 

At the scene, Sergeant Palmer maintained his composure over the radio and continued to clear the location with the remaining officers. There was information from the original call indicating there was another armed individual with the suspect. After a thorough search, it was determined that there was only one suspect involved. The suspect died as a result of his injuries.

 

Officer Moss was rushed into surgery and remained in critical condition. His coworkers and many on the Department were at the hospital supporting him and his family the entire time. After two weeks of ICU care, miraculously he no longer needed breathing assistance and had become more alert. He started physical therapy and was able to stand with assistance. On July 23, just three weeks after doctors gave him just a 1% chance of survival, he was released from the hospital to continue his healing at a rehabilitation facility out of state. The facility focused on brain injury and neurological rehabilitation and recovery. He was able to come home to Kansas City a few weeks ago.

 

All the officers involved displayed courage and bravery, and each played a vital role in saving the life of Officer Moss and the keeping the people of Kansas City safe.



These are just a few of the extraordinary acts officers have performed, and they are only the ones from KCPD. Many more from other metro-area agencies will be recognized on Friday. At a time when many people question every move officers make, your metro-area officers still do not hesitate to lay their lives on the line to save others.

 

Our dedication to duty is unwavering. We have answered and will continue to answer every call for help, no matter the person’s politics, beliefs, socioeconomic status, race or even COVID-19 diagnosis. In a pandemic, in civil unrest, or on just an otherwise unremarkable day, KCPD and our metro-area partners will be there when you need help, no matter what.


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

 

 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Operation LeGend isn’t over, and KC homicide rate continues to decrease

The “surge” portion of Operation LeGend may be complete in Kansas City, but this partnership between KCPD and our federal law enforcement partners to reduce violent crime is going to continue well into the future.

I am at a meeting of the Major City Chiefs Association today at which U.S. Attorney General William Barr is discussing Operation LeGend. Operation LeGend brought hundreds of federal agents into Kansas City to help our agency investigate violent crimes during an unprecedented increase. They helped us take dozens of murderers, and many more shooters, robbers and other perpetrators of violent crime into custody. They brought the resources of the entire federal criminal justice system to Kansas City, meaning many of those suspects now are facing federal charges and are in custody in federal detention until their trials.

The homicide rate in Kansas City has dropped precipitously since the implementation of Operation LeGend, as you can see in this chart.





The resources of Operation LeGend allowed us to investigate violent crimes and arrest suspects much faster than we would have been able to do alone. Their assistance with analysis, interviewing witnesses and suspects who have left the metro area and more have been invaluable.

Operation LeGend is not over. While we have long had a great working relationship with our federal law enforcement partners, those relationships are being enhanced. For many years, we have had several specialized squads composed of both KCPD and federal agents, and that’s growing. The FBI’s Kansas City Field Office will embed additional personnel in our Violent Crimes Division.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also has created a new criminal enforcement group in Kansas City made up of eight agents and a supervisor. They are assigned to work full time with our Assault Squad to investigate non-fatal shootings. They work alongside our detectives here in KCPD Headquarters on things like ballistics intelligence to connect shootings and link suspects to firearms. They also are helping us charge shooters with federal gun law violations to get them off the streets as soon as possible.

There is still work to be done. The additional federal resources coming through the continuation of Operation LeGend will help us continue to hold violent offenders accountable and increase safety in our neighborhoods.

Operation LeGend is about enforcement, but we have all heard that police can’t “arrest our way out” of a violent crime issue. That’s why we’re working with faith leaders in the Getting to the Heart of the Matter initiative to address some of the root causes of crime. It’s why we partnered with churches from the Northland to the Southland this past weekend on Faith and Blue events that provided more than 45,000 meals to residents. It’s why we employ social workers and a specialized Crisis Intervention Team Squad and so much more.

The KCPD is working to address violent crime from multiple angles, and the help of both federal and community partners makes that work so much more effective. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Proposed budget cuts would mean loss of 400 police personnel

A reporter asked me at a press conference on Monday how helpful the 200 additional federal agents were who came to Kansas City to help us amid an unprecedented spike in violent crime for Operation LeGend. After I said how much those additional resources helped, the reporter asked what a 400-person reduction to our department would mean to solving and preventing crime. Quite frankly, it would be devastating.

We are already doing our part to help in these tough economic times. We’ve cut $5.6 million from the current fiscal year’s budget this summer. Like other city departments, we are being asked by the City Finance Department to provide scenarios for what an 11% budget cut would look like for fiscal year 2021-22. That’s nearly $26 million for us. To make that number, we would have to reduce about 400 employees, and the remainder would have to take two-week furloughs. Below I’ll outline some of the proposals we’re considering to meet those numbers, and then I’ll share what that means to the average person who lives, works or visits Kansas City:

PROPOSALS TO MEET AN 11% REDUCTION
  • Close North Patrol Division (which serves about 67,600 people across 84.8 square miles) and consolidate it with Shoal Creek Patrol Division; and close Central Patrol Division (which serves about 62,300 people across 17 square miles) and consolidate it with East Patrol. That removes one-third of police stations in Kansas City.
  • Eliminate the Helicopter Unit, a Traffic Enforcement Squad, Community Interaction Officers, School Resource Officers, Police Athletic League, CAN Centers, social workers and a majority of Impact Squad officers, who proactively address crime. All of those officers would be reassigned to patrol and answer 911 calls.
  • Reduce property crimes detectives.
  • A hiring freeze and no new Academy classes in 2020 or 2021. We would lose more than 120 police officers through this.
  • A reduction of 13 people at the Kansas City Regional Crime Lab.
  • Eliminate numerous support staff positions in areas ranging from information technology to fleet operations.

WHAT THIS MEANS

· When you call 911

- When you call 911, you will likely be put on hold.
- Response times will be longer. Response times will be greatest north of the River and in the Southland. You can see on this graph what our current response times are by division. At minimum, increase that by 11%.

- Service may be diminished.
- If you do report a crime, there will be fewer detectives to investigate your crime.
- We will have to prioritize response to violent crime. It’s highly likely we will have to stop responding to non-injury crashes, car and home break-ins and other property crimes. Victims would be asked to report those to police stations, themselves. Only the property crimes with greatest losses would be investigated.
- Crime Lab backlogs will slow the ability to solve cases.


· In the community

- All of our positions that focus on community policing would have to be eliminated to focus on our core mission of answering 911 calls and investigating violent crime.
- The people who need police service the most are our most economically disadvantaged. They’re who call 911 the most and have the least resources. They are who our social workers assist. They are who will be hurt most by cuts to the police department.
- All youth programming would be eliminated. This carries greater costs. The Police Athletic League, for example, is funded by a 501c3 that pumps about $500,000 a year into the urban core. That community investment would go away.
- Reduced traffic and parking enforcement.
- No new hires means no additional way to have staff who reflect the community. The Academy class we already cut this year was set to be our most diverse ever.
- Reduced Internal Affairs detectives could impact officer accountability.
- Our community already has stepped up over the years to provide funding for equipment needed to solve and prevent crime and enhance officer accountability, such as license-plate readers, body-worn cameras and ballistic helmets. What does this mean for all of their contributions?


LONG-TERM IMPACTS

  • The last time we took a major budget hit was in the recession of 2008. It took us 10 years to come close to regaining the staffing we had then. It takes about a year and a half to recruit, process, hire and train a new police officer on our department. We had more than 1,400 officer positions prior to 2008. We’re now at a little more than 1,300.
  • These reductions would put us at less than 1,000 officers. The last time that occurred was in 1970. After the passage of the 1% Earnings Tax in 1971, we hired 200 more officers. Does Kansas City really want to go backward 50 years?
  • We have had an unprecedented increase in violent crime in 2020. One can only imagine how that will change with reduced law enforcement presence and reduced investigations.

WHAT WE’VE ALREADY DONE AND RESIDENT PRIORITIES

We have implemented numerous reforms the public has requested. Among these are implementing body-worn cameras, having an outside agency investigate officer-involved shootings, changing our policy to explicitly include the duty for officers to intervene in an excessive-force situation and revising our tactics during protests.

We already cut $5.6 million from the current fiscal year’s budget. We eliminated 90 positions and canceled all Academy classes. In the reduced economy that has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic, we realize sacrifices are needed.

Just like many families have had to do in the past six months, we’ve had to prioritize our budget. That is something the Kansas City government must do now. In the most recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey, residents placed police services as their No. 2 funding priority, just below street and sidewalk infrastructure.

If we do have to make a 400-person reduction, everyone who lives or works in Kansas City will still pay 100% of their taxes, but they won’t get the same police service they're used to. The residents and businesses of Kansas City have come to expect a certain level of police service that they will no longer receive. That, in turn, can have an economic impact on people wanting to do business and live in Kansas City, which would perpetuate budget problems.


These cuts are not a foregone conclusion. City leaders have a choice to make between now and when the new fiscal year starts May 1, 2021, and they will base much of that on what they hear from residents. We look forward to residents participating in these discussions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

In violent year, KCPD’s homicide clearance rate remains well above average

Despite a record-high workload, the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is maintaining a clearance rate that is well above-average for homicide cases. Our solve rate is even higher.

Our clearance rate is recorded as a Uniform Crime Report (UCR) rate, as mandated by the FBI. Our UCR clearance rate is 70% today. The national average is 62%. UCR is based on casework completed this year compared to total homicides this year. It gives credit to all cases solved in 2020, regardless of whether the homicide occurred in years prior.

As of today, we have cleared 62 homicides from 2020 and 27 from previous years, for a total of 89. Just last week we identified persons of interest in two 2019 homicide cases. Our detectives and crime lab staff deserve for their work to be counted on those cases, as well, which is what UCR does. We will never stop seeking justice on unsolved homicides.

Most homicides aren’t solved like on television shows. If we don’t figure out who did it at the scene, there’s extensive work that needs to happen in the days, weeks and months that follow: witness interviews, extracting data from phones, social media analysis, video review, forensic analysis of DNA, firearms and other evidence. Those things take time. They also take people and equipment, and both of those are finite resources. All of those things are vitally important to ensure we identify the right person as a suspect and put forward a case that can successfully be prosecuted.

The violence in Kansas City this year was outpacing our capacity, despite the addition of eight additional homicide squad detectives and 12 additional assault squad detectives earlier this year. (Aggravated assaults, usually shootings, often are the precursors to homicides.)

That’s why Operation LeGend has been so helpful. By giving us additional investigators and resources, they have allowed us to conduct these investigations at a faster rate than we could have on our own. Operation LeGend is assisting not just with homicides but with all violent crimes: shootings, robberies and more. And since they have been in town, the pace of homicides and other violent crime has slowed, which is good for everyone in Kansas City.

Operation LeGend also has helped in detaining violent criminals prior to trial. Police are only the first stop in the criminal justice system. Courts, judges, prosecutors, corrections and probation and parole all have a part to play in holding accountable those who would harm others. Officers can make arrests all day, every day, but if the rest of the system doesn’t keep up, dangerous people remain in the community.

That’s why we define a case that is “cleared” differently from a case that is “solved.” Solved is what we can do. Cleared is up to other players in the criminal justice system. Solved means we have probable cause to charge a suspect for a crime. Cleared generally means that the county prosecutor’s office agreed and charged the suspect or the case was exceptionally cleared.

We currently have 14 cases submitted to prosecutors’ offices, of which 13 of these are solved - not cleared - cases. One case is cleared, but there are still additional suspects to charge. The remainders are awaiting charging decisions by prosecutors or a grand jury’s decision. If every solved case was a cleared case, we would have 102 total cases cleared this year, for an 80% solve rate.

Community cooperation continues to be vital for us in continuing to clear these cases. In so many cases, all it takes is one person coming forward. And in all homicide cases, you can remain anonymous and get a $25,000 reward.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, July 10, 2020

Budget cuts will affect police service to those who need it most

Like so many other cities, Kansas City is facing an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kansas City Missouri Police Department, along with all other City departments, is being asked to identify 4.5% of our budget that could be cut. For us, that’s about $10.5 million. We know that we will have to make sacrifices like everyone else, and we are actively working on the best ways to do that.

Typically, between 85% and 90% of our budget goes to personnel costs, so personnel would have to comprise a majority of the cuts. We already had dozens of open positions that will not be filled. We are not starting the next scheduled Academy class, and probably will cancel the next three classes.

What’s particularly unfortunate about canceling the next 30-member class is that it was to consist of 50% minority recruits. Our Employment Unit had done an excellent job recruiting people who reflect our community and come from diverse backgrounds. We hope they still will want to serve Kansas City when revenues allow them to. We typically have three to four Academy classes per year to keep up with attrition.

The problem with reducing personnel is that it inevitably means service gets reduced. Below is a heat map of where our 911 calls originated in the first half of 2020 (Jan. 1 – June 30). The darker blue areas showed where the most people called police for help. If you’re at all familiar with the socioeconomic make-up of our city, you will see that the most 911 calls come from the most impoverished areas of our city. Reducing police personnel will reduce service to the most economically disadvantaged of our residents. They are the ones who request our help the most, and they are ultimately the ones who potentially will suffer the most from reduced police staffing. (Click to see the map full size.)


Reduced officers on the street will lead to longer response times, an increased workload for those who remain, less personnel to devote to investigations and less time to engage in community policing efforts. And residents won’t just feel reduced staffing on the streets; they’ll feel it on the phone, too. Staffing shortages in our Communications Unit will lead to being put on hold when calling 911. This is an issue we have worked very hard to resolve since I became Chief by increasing Communications Unit staffing. No one should have to be put on hold during a life-or-death emergency.

We will do everything we can to provide the best service possible while working within budgetary constraints. Current fiscal realities mean prioritizing what residents need most and what can be reduced citywide. Those realities should be balanced with the increasing need for public safety in Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org