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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

KCPD Highlights Service Aspects of Policing



There have been many calls lately to fundamentally shift the way policing is done in America. Several of these demands are about responding to situations of people in crisis without enforcement. I couldn’t agree more, which is why we’ve pioneered programs like dedicated social workers and a Crisis Intervention Team Squad.

As far as I know, we were the first police department in America to employ social workers. For two years now, a social service worker has been assigned to each of our six patrol division stations. Their job is to help in situations that come to the attention of law enforcement but cannot be resolved by police. They’ve helped a family whose home burned down. They’ve helped victims of domestic violence start new lives. They’ve assisted with drug treatment. And ultimately, they’ve gotten residents the resources they need to be successful and reduced the need for law enforcement involvement. In 2019, KCPD social workers assisted more than 1,820 people.

The social workers also have done a great deal with youth in Kansas City. They have helped resolve neighborhood feuds that originated with youth and would have turned violent without the social workers’ intervention. We deployed them to the Country Club Plaza, which was having a problem with unsupervised teenagers gathering and causing violence and property destruction. With surveys, education and a diversion program, the social workers were able to mostly resolve an issue we had spent nearly a decade unsuccessfully trying to enforce our way out of.

In recent weeks, when so many people were out of work during the COVID-19 shut-down, our social workers partnered with community resources to ensure some of the most vulnerable people in our community had food. Their efforts led to 775 people a day being fed for a month. They were unable to carry out their regular duties because of the pandemic, but they saw the needs and created a whole new way to serve.

Law enforcement also has become the default responders to those in mental health and substance abuse crisis. That’s why I thought it was imperative that all patrol officers who weren’t already Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) certified undergo mental health awareness training. This covers the CIT basics and responding to someone in crisis.

Several years ago, however, we realized how important it was to have a squad of 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 the last year, this squad responded to help 212 people who wanted to die by suicide. With their community mental health liaisons, they made 98 visits to people who needed treatment. They also conducted 132 follow-up visits in addition to that. They made 40 visits to homeless camps to help residents 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 needlessly thrown into the criminal justice system or having a negative counter with law enforcement.

KCPD has been at the forefront of these alternative responses. I presented about our social worker program at the Major Cities Chiefs Association meeting last fall, where the leaders of several other departments showed interest in implementing something similar.

We are continually evaluating our practices and responses to determine what will best serve our community and keep Kansas City safe. The social workers and CIT Squad are a result of that evaluation. That analysis is not over. We will keep looking for places to improve and enhance our service to Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.    

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Seven shootings in nine hours in Kansas City

Shootings and homicides have been increasing steadily lately. As of Monday, May 18, Kansas City, Missouri, has had 204 living shooting victims in 2020 compared to 160 at the same time in 2019. To date, there have been 64 homicides compared to 52 a year ago.

I get asked a lot why this is happening and what can be done to stop it. I wish we had all of those answers. In nine hours from about 8:45 last night to 5:45 this morning, police responded to seven separate shootings. No one has died at this point, but several have life-threatening injuries. I’ve detailed them below to give you a snapshot of what we’ve been dealing with. In most, police were either close enough to hear the shootings when they happened or were there in minutes. Police presence is not deterring those set on committing violent acts.

You might see a few other commonalities in the cases below:

Uncooperative victims – From May 11 to 17, eight out of ten shooting victims refused to cooperate with the investigation and/or refused to press charges. A review of data over a longer period of time shows that two-thirds of Kansas City’s living shooting victims are uncooperative in the investigation. A majority claim they don’t know who shot them or why. Investigation usually shows that’s not true. They either want to retaliate, were involved in illegal activity at the time of the shooting they don’t want to disclose, or fear retaliation. If shooting victims don’t help police stop shooters, the shooters remain in the community and remain readily capable of deadly violence. We know who they are. We know what they’ve done, but we have no way to stop them within the criminal justice system.

Juveniles – Many of the victims and suspects from last night’s shootings were teenagers.


LAST NIGHT’S SHOOTINGS

8:42 p.m., 31st and Van Brunt
Officers were in the area of 31st and Van Brunt and heard the sound of multiple gunshots. An area canvas was conducted, and officers found someone shot in the parking lot of 3011 Van Brunt. Witnesses said there were multiple people exchanging gunfire from the parking lot and a vehicle. An ambulance transported the victim at the scene to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. Shortly after the incident, another shooting victim arrived at a different hospital with a gunshot wound. She was listed in stable condition. The suspects range in age from 14-17.

11:40 p.m., Linwood and Kensington
Officers responded to an area hospital after a shooting victim arrived in the emergency room. The victim told officers someone fired shots at him in the area of Linwood and Kensington and then fled the scene in a white sedan. The victim was struck in the shoulder and drove himself to the hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

12:05 a.m., 500 block of E. 105th St.
Officers were dispatched to a disturbance involving gunfire. They found a 15-year-old victim who said two groups of juveniles had been involved in an altercation in the parking lot. One of the juveniles pulled out a gun and fired a shot in the victim’s direction. She was not hit. The suspect then got into a white Jeep and fled the scene, striking another car and a fence as he left. Fortunately, no one was hurt in this incident.

12:42 a.m., 3600 block of Bales Ave.
Officers went to a drive-by shooting where, miraculously, no one was injured. Police recovered more than 160 shell casings from the scene. Children as young as 2 were in the home. Victims said they didn’t see any suspects. The shell casings were from multiple weapons:

21 spent shell casings of 9 mm ammunition
20 spent shell casings .40 caliber ammunition
19 spent shell casings .300 black out ammunition
79 spent shell casings .223 ammunition
21 spent shell casings .45 + 1 live round ammunition

12:55 a.m., dispatched to hospital
Officers went to an area hospital after a shooting victim arrived in the emergency room. He had a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was rushed into surgery with life threatening injuries. Officers spoke with the person who drove the victim to the hospital. The driver was uncooperative and would not answer any questions. Police are still trying to figure out where the original shooting occurred.

1:44 a.m., officers contacted at hospital
While still at the hospital investigating the above shooting, another shooting victim showed up to the ER with a gunshot wound to the neck. The 18-year-old victim drove himself to the hospital and is listed in stable condition. He was uncooperative and refused to answer questions about how he got shot. Other officers saw the man driving to the hospital and believe his injuries could be connected to several reports of shots fired at a house in south Kansas City, but everyone at the home refused to talk to officers.

5:46 a.m., 1800 Brownell
Officers responded to a call of a man in his 40’s who had been shot while driving a moped. He told officers a few possible locations where he was shot, and officers have preliminarily located a crime scene at the plasma center at 6000 Independence Ave. An ambulance took the victim to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.


What could anyone have done to prevent these shootings, including police?

Unfortunately, nights like last night have not been unusual lately. Our officers, detectives and crime scene investigators capably responded to and investigated these incidents while handling everything else in the city. But we could not predict them.

We are frustrated and trying a number of tactics to reduce the violence. We are, however, just one piece of the criminal justice system. Many parts of that system have been affected by the pandemic. We’re out on the streets when these shootings happen. We’re gathering evidence, investigating and submitting cases for prosecution. But we are only one entity.

Courts, prosecutors, jails, probation and parole – they’re all part of the criminal justice equation. None of those are operating at normal capacity right now, but areas of the system struggled long before COVID-19. To show how other parts of the criminal justice system have an impact, consider this example: two suspects who have been charged with shooting a 5-year-old during a rolling gun battle down Truman Road last month just had their bond reduced from $100,000 cash only to 10%. One thing we do know is that people involved in crime continue to be involved in crime.

I will be sharing some of the new violent crime prevention initiatives we’re undertaking next week. As you can see, however, we need the assistance of victims, witnesses, and the whole community to make progress against violent crime. We live here, too, and so do our families. We want a safer Kansas City. We want a quiet night for all of our neighborhoods. We can’t do that alone. 


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org    

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

As support pours in for police, officers are uplifted

We often see the best of humanity in the worst of times. The support of people throughout the Kansas City Metro area when an officer was killed in the line of duty at one of our neighboring agencies last week has been so touching and humbling. Hundreds of police cars, including many from KCPD, went to honor Overland Park, Kansas, Officer Mike Mosher on May 10, with a lengthy Salute to Blue procession in Overland Park. Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, was lit up blue that night, too.

Both were sights to behold. People lined the route of the Salute to Blue procession Sunday saluting, waving flags and even kneeling. The support for law enforcement was overwhelming. 

Top right and bottom left photos courtesy Overland Park Police Department.

This week, May 10-16, is National Police Week. It began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week to honor officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Officer Mosher paid the ultimate sacrifice, and I am so humbled by the respect the community has shown for him and law enforcement.

No one becomes a police officer planning to die in service to their community, but we do all know it is a possibility. The show of support for law enforcement lately demonstrates the high esteem in which the vast majority of Kansas City metro residents hold police for being willing to make that sacrifice. We don’t often see news stories about that support.

We at KCPD began feeling a tangible increase in community support at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have since received donations from hundreds of organizations, individuals and businesses ranging from food to masks to thermometers. The community realized that pandemic or no pandemic, KCPD would be on the front lines every day and night to serve and protect, even with the risk to officers’ own health and safety. They have repeatedly thanked us for that dedication, and we are humbled by their support. Many didn’t even want their name mentioned. They just felt in their hearts that supporting police was the right thing to do. To know that our work is appreciated means the world to officers in a time when the world has been turned upside down, and we lost one of our brothers across the State Line who was doing the same job we do.

Some people don’t like and/or distrust police. Yes, police have made mistakes and we are constantly evaluating our programs and training to better connect with our community. Police remain one of the most trusted professions in America, however. In Kansas City, at least, we are doing as much as we possibly can to earn your trust and support.

For those who have already shown your support, thank you. Words aren’t enough to express the difference that makes in a job that often feels thankless. I know for a fact members of the KCPD have been surprised but very appreciative of the outpouring of support.

May 21 would have been our police memorial service at KCPD Headquarters. For everyone’s health and safety, we are moving that service online this year. We will share a special video tribute that day to the 119 KCPD officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice throughout our agency’s 146-year history. Keep an eye out for it here, on our social media and on our web site, and help us honor those who have gone before us in service to their city.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Friday, May 8, 2020

Technology helps police "bust" felony suspects

We’re six months into an initiative that is bringing residents and police together to solve crimes, and it’s working just like we’d hoped.

We launched the Busted page on our web site in November 2019. This web page features suspects who have been caught on camera committing felony crimes, everything from burglaries to shootings. Previously, these pictures and video had only been circulated internally at KCPD or with other area law enforcement. Detectives are now sharing them with the public to get as many as eyes as possible to identify suspects and close cases. With the proliferation of security cameras, many more cases now feature video and photos as pieces of evidence.

All cases are felony-level, and therefore eligible for rewards through the TIPS Hotline. Each Busted case features a link to the online, anonymous TIPS submission form. Tips leading to an arrest will be eligible for anonymous cash rewards. Each case is featured on the Busted page for 30 days.

We’ve had some really good success with Busted. It’s hard to put a number on crimes it’s solved, because often identifying a suspect is just the beginning of an investigation. Anecdotally, about 20 to 25% of the cases featured on Busted result in a suspect getting identified. I’ll share a few success stories with you:

Within days of us launching Busted, a tip helped detectives pin down an identify thief who had used someone else’s identity to fraudulently purchase vehicles. 



Charges were recently filed in a case in which two men assaulted and stole money from a victim who had just withdrawn it from an ATM at a convenience store. A tipster who saw it on Busted helped identify a suspect who was wearing a not-so-subtle pink “Golden Girls” shirt.



Busted also has helped us identify felony-level shoplifters ...



 burglars ...


and even shooters in aggravated assaults ... 



Cases are added regularly, so I encourage you to check back on the page often.

Busted is one of several initiatives we’ve embarked on to more directly involved Kansas Citians in solving crime. Another is our WatchKC program, in which residents can let us know they have security cameras so we can contact them in an event there is a crime in their neighborhood with which video evidence could help.

As technology expands, we look forward to offering more of these crime-fighting partnership opportunities with you in the future. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Monday, April 27, 2020

Study shows crime prevention tool decreased violent crime 24% in project areas




We implemented an innovative crime-fighting strategy one year ago, and it has reduced violent crime in our project areas by 24 percent, according to a new analysis by Rutgers University.

We worked with criminal justice scholars from Rutgers to implement an evidence-based strategy that helps determine where crime or other problems are most likely to occur: Risk-Based Policing (RBP). RBP is a crime prevention and reduction tool that builds on the analytical technique Risk Terrain Modeling to look not at where crime has already occurred but features of the physical environment that will cause crime. A key aspect of RBP is it focuses on places, not people. It also does not take into account historical crime or arrest data, making it different from previous hot spot policing efforts. RBP overlays a number of geographic data to show police (and their partners!) where a crime problem is most likely to emerge, allowing preventive measures to be taken in that area. Known as “risk factors,” examples include liquor and convenience stores, vacant properties, properties with code violations, parks, bus stops, and many more. They may be completely innocuous on their own, but the risk of crime can increase dramatically if many are in the same general vicinity.

RBP gave us an idea of areas in the city at highest risk for violent crime. Seeing these areas of concentrated risk areas allow police, city government, and other partners to martial resources to address issues. For example, police can perform liquor license checks at businesses selling alcohol in high-risk areas and request follow-up from Regulated Industries. Police can also share advice and recommendations to property owners about how to reduce risk of crime through means such as better lighting or security cameras. In addition, KCPD members share RBP data with municipal departments to help enforce code violations or fix broken streetlights. This helps everyone share the burden of true public safety when compared to traditional enforcement-focused measures. In turn, RBP ultimately results in a more holistic service to the public.

Using objective RBP data as a guide, KCPD devoted resources to some of the highest-risk areas in the city. The recent analysis from Rutgers compares the year before we implemented RBP – March 15, 2018 to March 14, 2019 – to the year since – March 15, 2019 to March 14, 2020. It also looked at control areas with similar levels of environmental risk that did not receive the specific tasks based on the RBP concept. Note, this does not mean the KCPD did not provide police service or other necessary responses in these areas.

The RBP strategy focused on violent street crime (homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies) in our four patrol divisions south of the Missouri River – Central, East, Metro, and South – because they have the highest incidence of these violent crimes.

Researchers found violent street crime decreased 24% overall when looking at all focus areas. In more practical terms, this means Kansas City had 165 fewer violent crime victims in the areas where RBP was used in just one year. The control areas saw only a combined 1% reduction in violent crime. These findings are also statistically significant, meaning we can have confidence the reductions are due to our efforts as opposed to random chance.

Here are the results for violent street crime in each of the four divisions:

· Central: 43% decrease
· East: 25% decrease
· Metro: 9% decrease
· South: 21% decrease (although to be fair, unlike Central, East, and Metro, researchers found much of the violent crime here was displaced nearby)

One of the best features of RBP is how customizable it is to different areas of the city. For example, laundromats were a prominent risk factor in Metro Patrol but not Central Patrol. RBP therefore provides insight to each patrol division about the most significant environmental risk factors in their communities so they can address them accordingly. This can include options such as asking the City’s Neighborhood Preservation division to assist with problem properties or even social service outreach.

Legal scholars such as Andrew Ferguson, an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, have also shown support for this approach because it helps strip away potential person-based bias given the focus on environmental risk. RBP is a civilly just way to deploy public resources, including those from the police.

In addition, the KCPD was able to achieve these impressive results with virtually no added cost. There was no overtime required, no grant funding needed, nor specialized squads to create. Instead, we were able to see meaningful crime reduction using our current resources in more strategic, focused ways.

This also has led to us building a fantastic new partnership with Rutgers University. We so appreciate their attention and expertise in helping us make our city safer.

We obviously still have a lot of work to do and are already planning ways to evolve the strategy and build on these early successes. We are beginning internal discussions about expanding on the areas where we are currently deploying RBP, as well as seeking opportunities to bring more resources from external partners to the table.

In the meantime, we now have quantifiable evidence Risk-Based Policing is a viable tool in reducing violent crime here in Kansas City. We are always looking at innovative ways to reduce crime and improve quality of life here at the KCPD, and RBP is proving to be a step in the right direction.


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Monday, April 13, 2020

Police remain busy in Kansas City despite stay-at-home order

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about how all the changes in our society to stop the spread of the coronavirus are impacting crime in Kansas City. Other cities have seen crime fall across the board, but in Kansas City, it has been mixed.

First, I’d like to thank everyone in Kansas City who have been adhering to the stay-at-home order. We’re finding that the vast majority of people are abiding by it, which should help us flatten the curve and defeat this pandemic more quickly. It’s also helping keep us – your first responders – healthy and able to serve.

We need officers out on the street because violent crime here has not changed much with social distancing measures or the stay-at-home order. In the two weeks before the stay-at-home order, March 10-13, we had six homicides. We’ve had seven homicides in the two weeks since, March 24-April 6. Aggravated assaults increased from 61 in the two weeks before the order to 68 in the two weeks after the order.

As many expected, domestic violence assaults have increased a bit. If you are in an unsafe situation at home, please call 816-HOTLINE, which will connect you to domestic violence advocates in the Kansas City area. Domestic violence shelters and prevention agencies are still operating and providing services.

Below is a chart showing some major categories of violent crime in Kansas City so far this year and how the numbers have changed as COVID-19 spread and residents started staying home.




By contrast, many of our property crimes have fallen off. We attribute this to more people at home keeping an eye on their belongings all day. We’ve seen the largest decreases in crime in the categories of thefts from vehicles, stolen cars and shoplifting (mainly because most retailers are closed). Here is the chart showing our property crime trends for the first three months of 2020:


Overall, our calls for service have seen little change. Below are March numbers from last year compared to this year:  


March 2019
March 2020
Difference
Calls received
78,399
77,128
-2%


The main goal of police is to keep you safe, which is why were are focusing our traffic enforcement efforts on reducing the excessive speed that has arisen with fewer cars on the road. Traffic officers are saying speeds are much higher than normal. They issued some of the following tickets last week:

* 123 mph in a 65 at 435/Wornall
* 79 in a 35 on Independence Ave.
* 76 in a 45 on Chouteau Bridge
* 133 in a 55 on I-29/Waukomis
* 86 in a 55 on 71 Hwy/31st St.

Again, this is why you'll still see us enforcing speed limits. From March 16-30, our injury crashes were up by 43% compared to the same time period last year. Officers are doing everything possible to reduce contact on these stops and are sanitizing before and after each one, as well as wearing masks.

I have no doubt this pandemic will continue to reshape our city in the short and long term, but looking at the numbers, the workload of police in Kansas City has remained pretty consistent. No matter what happens, KCPD will continue to respond to community needs. 


Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Working together to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep first responders healthy

Everybody is feeling the effects of the social distancing efforts needed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. For the next two to four weeks (or however long health officials recommend), we all have to make personal sacrifices for the good of the whole. Maybe you’re not at great risk for serious effects of the virus, but I bet you have a loved one who is. What would you do to protect that loved one? Now is the time to think about what you can do for others, not just how it may affect you. We all need to act in that manner to protect everybody else’s loved ones.

We all have to work together to stop the spread so our healthcare system has room to treat the sickest patients. This teamwork is not unlike what we all must do to stop violent crime in our community. With a little bit of prevention, we could all really change the course of a pandemic. Kansas City has a strong history of coming together to handle all types of situations: from deployment and food rationing during World Wars, to acts of mother nature that have torn our city apart, we come together to accomplish what is necessary. Our calling now is to stop the spread of this virus while taking care of those who get ill. As of today, health officials are urging us to refrain from gatherings with 10 or more people.

Of course, we have to look out for the well-being of our own employees, as well. Police and other first responders must remain as healthy as possible and available to serve our community. In the future, we may need to make adjustments in our deployment or methods of gathering report information, but rest assured that any priority in this city will be handled.

This situation has been taxing on all of us. The police department has had to make decisions that frankly have not been considered during my 32 years of service. This police department has worked tirelessly to build relationships in this city and to suspend activities that go to our core mission in building these relationships come with much thought, and frankly it is extremely difficult to suspend activities that we cherish. So far, we have:

- Suspended all community events and meetings in police facilities, from free tax preparation to neighborhood meetings to the Citizens Police Academy.
- Canceled ride-alongs.
- Encouraged officers to practice good hygiene, not shake hands and meet in open areas and/or on porches if possible.

If you have possible COVID-19 symptoms and need to call for help, please advise 911 call-takers of your illness so first responders can be prepared when coming into contact with you.

Please look for updates here, on our web site and our social media, which is where we will notify you of any practices we are changing to keep our workforce healthy and ready to help Kansas City get through whatever happens in these unprecedented times. When we all work together, we are safer and stronger.

Send comments to: kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

To curb violence, more officers are needed

If you’re the leader of a police department in a city that’s ranked the fifth-most violent in the nation, where would your budget discussion start?

It’s budget time again in Kansas City, and as our budget comprises nearly 38% of the City’s general fund, there has understandably been a lot of discussion about it, and there should be. Board of Police Commissioners President Nathan Garrett stated at last week’s Board meeting that KCPD needs more officers than the ten additional officer positions currently in the City’s proposed budget.

The Kansas City Star published an editorial Monday stating KCPD does not need 65 more police officers, which is a number Commissioner Garrett cited at the meeting. That would bring us up to 1,400 total officer positions. After Kansas City’s 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then-Mayor Ilus Davis convened a Commission on Civil Disorder. The report recommended in August 1968 that KCPD should have 1,500 officers. That was more than 50 years ago, and we have never met that goal.

This department has made many efforts to enhance relationships with the community, but with our current staffing, officers are primarily limited to responding to 911 calls. This limits proactive and community policing.  

The Star editorial points out that Kansas City has more officers per 10,000 people than cities like San Francisco, Tampa or Dallas. Those cities also have remarkably less violent crime. In 2019, Kansas City’s homicide rate per 100,000 was 30.1. That means for every 100,000 residents of our city, 30.1 were murdered. That rate was 4.6 for San Francisco, 6.9 for Tampa and 15.5 for Dallas. Only one of those cities barely reaches half our homicide rate. So to have a budget discussion of the number of officers we need solely based on what works per capita in other cities is an insult to the victims of violent crime in our community.

The Star editorial’s concern over our request for additional officers is it would negatively impact the City’s overall budget. The Police Department isn’t looking to take money from all other City services. We are a partner whose job is to secure the safety of the City. If the City is unsafe, people won’t want to live, work or visit here, and that would hurt everyone.

Commissioner Garrett pointed out that it’s our job and responsibility to put forth a budget request for what we think appropriately meets the needs of this city. In fact, Commissioner Garrett pointed out several things in response to the Editorial Board’s questions days prior to its publication, which I’ve included here:

Editorial Board Question: As you know, the proposed budget calls for spending 38% of the general fund on police, almost twice the level required by state law. Do you believe there should be any limit on how much money taxpayers should spend on the department? Are there any ways the department might find savings in its own spending to provide funding for additional officers?

Nathan Garrett’s Answer:  We really don’t think of it in terms of measuring our proposal against the overall budget (percentage wise) when we make our ask; though I recognize, of course, that there’s a natural, process-oriented limit to how much of the City’s revenue our services can consume. Our responsibility is to identify critical needs we believe translate into more effective and responsible police services for our community. How that translates vis-√†-vis the overall City budget is what it is; though, again, we have the overall budget in mind when we engage in the process and fully recognize the balance of the City’s obligations. We’re a team player, but our job is to fight for the law enforcement needs of this City; it’s the job of others to balance those needs against other services and responsibilities. As for finding internal savings, we’re constantly engaged in that process and recognize our role in responsibly managing the resources we’re given. To this end, we also aggressively pursue grant funding and other community-oriented sources of revenue in an effort to augment the ask we make on the City. Chief among these contributors is the Police Foundation, which has been a stalwart in providing supplemental funding to our Department. These outside sources of revenue reduce the ask on the City and are something we feel a responsibility to pursue—and are eternally grateful for the response received. Lastly, we’ve made some very difficult, less-than-popular decisions within the Department to address enforcement priorities. Dismantling Mounted Patrol might have been the most vocally controversial thing we’ve done, but we felt it was the right thing to do in light of the alarming rise in gun violence. Those positions, as you know, were allocated to our homicide division. Likewise, we made other internal personnel maneuvers—following our audit review process—that allowed us to increase our assault squads (non-fatal shootings) by 12 detectives. While we’re always taking from something to give to something in these situations, that’s the recurring responsibility we have—make certain our resources are used in the most effective and efficient manner to address the most critical needs of our City.   

Editorial Board Question: Should the police board be more active in making those spending choices, since it controls the department, not the City Council?

Nathan Garrett’s Answer: The Board is always involved in this process, and our conversations with the Chief and his staff are near daily. The monthly Board meetings constitute a fraction of the time dedicated to the operations of this Department—fiscally and otherwise. And while it is not the Board’s job to micro-manage the daily spending of our resources, those expenditures are naturally related to our operational priorities and initiatives—something we are heavily engaged in. So, yes, we should be involved in our spending choices at a macro level and continue to ensure we have the right staff with the right directions in place to carry out the more daily, micro-oriented decisions.

Editorial Board Question: If there is additional information you wish to provide, please do so. 

Nathan Garrett’s Answer: We are admittedly a large bureaucracy, and as such, our efficiencies are not at a level of satisfaction for any of us—especially those of us in the private sector. We can and should continue to aggressively police ourselves and do our level best—even in the face of labor, legal and bureaucratic challenges—to make the best, most efficient use of our resources focused directly and most intently on the safety of our community.


This police department takes financial responsibility very seriously. We’re not looking to take over the city. We’re trying to find ways to address the violent crime issue in a way that is both reasonable and effective. Adding police officers is one of the only proven ways to do so that is within our control. This is discussed in the book Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.


We firmly believe more officers can help. The number of officers needed obviously is up for discussion, but to base that solely on per capita numbers and dollars is short-sighted and wrong.

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