Tuesday, June 26, 2012

KCPD engages in Battle for Blood

This time of year always is one that is critical for blood donations, but it’s also a time when you see public safety personnel really step up to fill the void. The annual Battle for Blood is going on this week at all locations of the Community Blood Center. It pits police officers against firefighters all over the Kansas City metro area to see who can bring in the most blood donations. Anyone can go to a Community Blood Center location and give on behalf of police (or fire).

Nearly every day, police see people who have had a traumatic injury and require donated blood to stay alive. And every year, hundreds of our department members roll up their sleeves and give that life-saving gift. We’re having two in-house drives this week, actually, for employees to give. The Community Blood Center currently has only a three-day supply of blood.

In addition to saving lives, we’ve got to recover some pride. Police lost the Battle for Blood trophy to fire last year, and we want it back! So head out to a Community Blood Center location by Friday and say you want to donate on behalf of Police. Those who donate also are registered for a chance to win All Star Game tickets and a number of other prizes.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Renovations at Headquarters

The main story on the front page of today’s Kansas City Star does a great job outlining the need for renovations here at 1125 Locust St. Our Homicide Unit and other violent crimes detectives work in unacceptably cramped and outdated conditions. Our dedicated Building Operations staff faces a never-ending task in keeping our HVAC and plumbing systems functioning.

But thanks to you, this is all about to change. By the spring of 2014, Police Headquarters will be fully renovated for the first time since it was built in 1938. The project is funded by the Public Safety Sales Tax, which you, the voters, overwhelmingly renewed in 2010. This will benefit not only the police who work here but also victims and witnesses, as the Star points out:

“No longer will witnesses and victims risk crossing paths with suspects before being interviewed. They won’t be forced to sit for hours in stark waiting rooms either. Architects have designed the layout to shelter victims from the accused and give police private places to take their statements.”

Detectives will be able to work on cases much more effectively and efficiently with this set up, and we hope it will contribute to increased victim and witness cooperation.

We will be adding a community meeting room off the first-floor lobby for public use, as well. And the architect is working to restore much of the building’s original Art Deco grandeur.

You might notice work going on around Headquarters, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Baseball fans encouraged to sign up for All Star Game text alerts


The Kansas City Missouri Police Department urges anyone who plans to attend any events surrounding the Major League Baseball All Star Game (Fan Fest, Home Run Derby, Red Carpet Parade, etc.) from July 6-10 to sign up for text message alerts by texting ALLSTARKC to 888777.

Police will use text alerts to keep baseball fans up to date on traffic, road closures and emergency notifications. The text alerts are provided free (although cellular plans may charge for them), and those who sign up will only receive alerts related to the All Star Game and its events. Once signed up, users also can opt to receive the messages by e-mail by going to nixle.com.

To receive all KCPD text alerts, text KCPD or your zip code to 888777.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Making 911 Call Center staffing a priority

When I was appointed chief last October, one of the units on this department most vital to public safety was inadequately staffed. Our Communications Unit, which handles all 911 calls in Kansas City, was down 24 people. We had been under a hiring freeze since a $15 million budget cut in 2008, but I knew those were positions that had to be filled.

I made those positions a priority, and I am happy to report that we have hired 14 call-takers since November. Nine of them have completed their training and are on the job full-time, and the remaining five will join them soon.

These call-takers are the first people you have contact with in an emergency. They handle all manners of stressful and life-or-death situations with professionalism. We conduct frequent quality assurance checks on them, and they consistently perform admirably. They handled more than 843,000 calls in 2011.

These call-takers and dispatchers have been professional and effective in spite of incredible demands that have been placed upon them the last few years during the hiring freeze. To prevent 911 callers from being placed on hold for long periods of time, our call-takers and dispatchers have been forced to work mandatory overtime. In 2011, they put in more than 10,000 hours of overtime to make up for being short-staffed. This has been a big strain on the employees.

With the high levels of turn-over in a stressful, 24/7 job like this, we still are down 14 positions. I hope that by continuing to work toward fully staffing the Communications Unit, we can ease some of the burden our dispatchers and call-takers have taken on to protect this city. In the mean time, I want them to know I appreciate everything they do.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm now on Twitter


Kansas City Missouri Police Chief Darryl Forté has joined the Twitterverse.

The Chief now is tweeting at @ChiefForte (www.twitter.com/chiefforte). He said it’s one more way he can communicate with members of the community and his own staff.

“I’d like both members and nonmembers of the department to better understand some of what I do throughout the day,” he said.

So far, the Chief has tweeted about attending public meetings and going to a homicide scene.

The police department also is on Twitter at @kcpolice (www.twitter.com/kcpolice).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Community Support Division makes inroads in neighborhood

Last night, our Community Support Division hosted a community forum that was the culmination of a week’s worth of intensive outreach efforts in a neighborhood struggling with crime.

The forum took place at St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church at 58th and Euclid, and about 75 residents attended. Thanks to Father Ernie Davis for hosting us. I was there, as were commanders and representatives of our Violent Crimes, Narcotics and Vice, Metro Patrol and Community Support divisions as well as the TIPS Hotline and our victim advocate. We talked about what each division does and gave the attendees an idea of what’s going on in their neighborhood with crime statistics.

But the really important work is what happened in advance of this forum. For four nights last week and this week, members of our Community Support Division (CSD) and officers knocked on the doors of 700 homes in the neighborhood around the church, which we’re calling a “Community Impact Zone.” The officers were expecting to get a lot of doors slammed in their faces, but CSD Director Doug Weishar said just the opposite happened. He said he was shocked by how warmly they were received. Many neighbors saw the police group coming and came out on their porches in advance to greet them.

The CSD staff asked each person they talked to if they’d be willing to provide their name, phone number and e-mail address so police could keep in touch with them better. Director Weishar estimated 95 to 98 percent of the people they contacted volunteered this information. We will use this to tell these residents about crime patterns in their neighborhood, ask for their help in solving crimes and ask them if what we’re doing is working. We’d like to use this Community Impact Zone area to test some community policing and crime prevention strategies.

While out in the neighborhoods and at the forum, we communicated the message that KCPD is there to help, but we need the community’s help. We also told them about the mission of the relatively new Community Support Division, which supports victims, witnesses and their families. Jennifer Miller, our victim advocate, talked about her role and how important it is to bridge the gap between the time a crime occurs and when it gets to court.

Of those who attended the forum, more than half said they would be interested in attending a two-hour community crisis intervention program presented by KCPD.

I want to thank the community members for opening up their minds and doors to police. I also want to thank Deputy Chief Randy Hundley and Director Weishar, Sergeant Darrel Rocker and Victim Advocate Jennifer Miller of the Community Support Division for organizing this event and going door to door. I also really appreciate the officers who assisted them.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Progress in hot spots

A few months ago, there was concern that our homicide rate was out of control. If you look at our daily homicide analysis, you will see we have just four more homicides than at this time last year and are at or below where we were for the three years before that. Each of these killings is a tragedy, but I assure you that violence is not spiraling out of control. The murder rate in Kansas City has remained relatively constant for a number of years.

My No. 1 priority as chief has been to reduce violent crime. We have studied where crime is most likely to occur and have devoted a great deal of resources to those neighborhoods. About half of this year’s homicides have occurred in several defined areas or within a few blocks of them. Starting the first weekend of May, we pulled officers from all over the department to saturate these areas. Since that time, no killings have taken place in those communities with the exception of an officer-involved shooting.

We’ve also made a concentrated effort to get guns out of the hands of those who should not legally have them. Through the beginning of May, our Narcotics and Vice Division has recovered 208 percent more firearms than at this point last year. This includes 573 percent more assault weapons (74 vs. 11) and 131 percent more handguns (367 vs. 119) than at this point in 2011.

This enhanced enforcement activity has not led to the displacement of crime elsewhere. None of our data show that violence is moving to other areas.

The police cannot take all credit for this progress. The people living in these neighborhoods have really stepped up. They are cooperating with us more and are becoming less tolerant of crime where they live.

Enhanced cooperation between police and residents as well as more law enforcement resources in the areas that need them most means that summer – a time of typically higher violence – can be a time of peace and safety in Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Friday, June 1, 2012

All Star Game security plan gets military "Red Team" review


The Kansas City Police security plan for the Major League Baseball All Star Game has received a military review from people who instruct U.S. Army officers how to review battle plans.

Instructors and students at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth volunteered to analyze the plan and met Thursday with members of KCPD, Kansas City Fire and Emergency Management Departments, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium to report their findings in a process called “Red Teaming.”

“We wanted them to find the things we didn’t think of and point out the vulnerabilities in the plan,” Major Rich Lockhart said.

The Red Team concept arose about six years ago from lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Retired Army Col. Steve Rotkoff, deputy director of the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth. The Army found groupthink had taken over in a lot of situations, and an outside perspective was needed to really analyze military strategies.

“A Red-Teamer is someone who has been trained, educated and given the tools to serve as an in-house skeptic,” Rotkoff said.

That was exactly what police wanted going into the All Star game, Lockhart said – an outside perspective to find any holes in the security plan.

Five U.S. Army officers – majors and above – in the Red Team Course analyzed the All Star plan. Rotkoff said it was one of the few civilian plans they’ve ever reviewed.

“They confirmed for us this is a solid plan,” Lockhart said. “They made some really good suggestions; like that we should have a no-communications plan in the event radios and cell phones don’t work. We’re going to work on putting that together next week.”