Monday, December 8, 2014

In these times of scrutiny, I'm proud of KCPD members and our city

These have been trying times for relations between law enforcement and the other members of the communities they serve (I say “and other members” because members of law enforcement are part of their communities, too). Police are under greater scrutiny than ever before. In light of that, I’d like to say how proud I am of the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Our employees have exhibited professionalism during the most difficult situations, especially in recent weeks. One great example: on the night of one of the largest protests, when hundreds of people decried police brutality, our officers arranged to have a KCATA bus transport the protesters back to their vehicles. It was cold and dark, and the officers knew the protesters had walked a long way.

KCPD members have continued to show what compassionate and caring individuals they are. In just the past couple of days, local news organizations have reported on how our officers work to ensure hungry children have food to eat and how an officer spent his time on his day off putting in new porch lights for elderly residents in the urban core. And those are just the stories that got reported. Our officers dole out small kindnesses every day that most people will never know. I appreciate everyone on social media and elsewhere who tell me about when they see one of our officers quietly doing a good deed.

This professionalism and compassion among our staff is by no means new. But with the spotlight on law enforcement nowadays, it certainly gives me more confidence than ever that our department is composed of quality people who really strive to achieve our mission: “Protect and serve with professionalism, honor and integrity.”

But I would be remiss not to thank the people of Kansas City, as well. Thank you for your civility. Thank you for letting your thoughts be known in a peaceful manner. Thank you for respecting the rights and property of others. Know that I am listening. I hear your frustration. One of my main goals as chief of police is to improve relationships between KCPD and the rest of the community. We are working toward that every day.

To that end, please come share your thoughts with us at a forum this Saturday. It will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the Palestine Missionary Baptist Church at 3619 E. 35th St. You’ll be able to sit down with the commander of the patrol division in which you live (as well as the Traffic Division commander), hear what’s going on in your area and share any thoughts and concerns you may have.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We're ready for Ferguson grand jury decision

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is ready for the decision of the grand jury in the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo. The short answer is, “yes.” We’re always ready. We train constantly for critical incidents, and we are prepared to allocate resources wherever needed. We are supposed to receive some advance notice of the grand jury’s decision, but we would be prepared if it happened right now.

We’re not over-preparing because we don’t anticipate any large-scale events of civil disorder. Kansas City has a history of exercising their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner. On many occasions in recent years, we’ve seen members of protestor groups step up and say they aren’t going to tolerate those intent on violence and destruction. They did it in the initial Ferguson demonstrations here. They did it during demonstrations for Trayvon Martin. We have good people here in Kansas City who know how to get their message across while respecting the rights and property of others.

There will always be alarmists – people who want to stir the pot and agitate and create fear. I am not afraid, and you shouldn’t be, either. This of course does not mean that KCPD isn’t ready to handle anything that happens. We are. We will be using covert and overt resources. Commanders will have a more visible presence out in the field. But we will not be heavy-handed. We will engage only at the level necessary to protect life and property.

Long before Ferguson, our department members had been working to build trust with other segments of our community. I have been blessed to hear from numerous community leaders who are constantly asking me how they can help. They and many others in our city have done a great deal. That’s evident in our reduced crime rates this year. They have refused to tolerate violent and property crimes in their community, and they’ve worked with us toward the goal of a safer city.

Law enforcement around the nation is under a higher level of scrutiny than ever before. Our personnel know this. During these difficult times, we will do everything we can to support those who want to lawfully express themselves while protecting the people and property of Kansas City.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Property crimes also decrease and remain a priority

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the reduction in violent crimes – particularly homicides – in Kansas City this year. But I want to assure you this does not mean we’ve forgotten about property crimes. We have many people working as hard as ever to stop those who commit these crimes, which affect far more of our residents than violent crime does.

And the proof of their hard work, combined with help from the community, is in the statistical pudding. Through the first of September, property crimes in Kansas City were down by 13 percent compared to the same time period last year. To break that down further, burglaries were down 19 percent, stealing was down 13 percent, and auto theft was down 5 percent.

I recently came across some great examples of the hard work our detectives are doing to protect our residents’ property and stop habitual offenders. The Central Patrol Division experienced a spike in business and residential burglaries over the last few months. There were several different patterns and modus operandi. Central Property Crimes Section detectives went after these cases with vigor. In one month, they filed cases on suspects in five separate burglary patterns, including a group of known gang members responsible for burglaries all over the metropolitan area.

They stopped a career criminal they’d previously called “Spiderman.” He would climb onto the balconies of second- and third-story apartments and enter them through unlocked sliding glass doors, stealing jewelry, cell phones and electronics. The detectives recognized the pattern because they’d investigated “Spiderman” five years ago and realized he’d been released from prison at the same time the thefts started again. Detectives conducted surveillance on him and followed him to an abandoned house full of all the property he’d stolen. He was arrested and charged.

They stopped someone else who was stealing lawn equipment from sheds and detached garages. Another suspect was arrested after prowling and stealing from numerous houses, often when the residents were home.

Another career criminal recently released from prison was breaking into downtown lofts by cutting through walls. Detectives gathered surveillance video and showed it to district officers to see if they recognized the man. They didn’t. That’s because the man had just gotten out of prison. He made the mistake of dropping a car title near one of the burglary scenes. The Central Property Crimes detectives were able to track him down, and he matched the suspect in the surveillance videos. He confessed to the crimes, and detectives found several of the items he stole at local pawn shops.

So in just one month, one property crimes squad stopped five major burglary rings. We have five other property crimes squads who are working just as hard. The drop in violent crime has gotten most of the press, and we are certainly encouraged by that. But through September 1, there were 11,133 more victims of property crime than violent crime in Kansas City. It affects many more people, and that’s why we continue to devote adequate resources to combating it. But fortunately, fewer and fewer people are becoming victims: 2,165 fewer victims of property crime this year compared to last year.

And as always, your help is integral to keeping property crime down:

· Do not leave items of value in your vehicle.

· Park in well-lit areas at night.

· Lock your home and vehicle.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflecting on my third anniversary as Chief of Police

Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of leading an organization filled with talented, dedicated, compassionate and professional employees. Since being appointed chief of police on October 13, 2011, I have experienced a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth thanks to many. 

Both my immediate and extended family have been nothing but supportive and encouraging during my entire 29 years of employment with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.  I am so blessed and appreciative to have them in my life. Same goes for my few close groups of friends who look out for my well-being, several of whom contact me daily.   

My faith-based supporters are very much appreciated as they have prayed for me regularly as well as remind me that I work for God and not for man.  Oftentimes I have made decisions that others question, which I encourage and welcome, but please know that I pray before making most major decisions and will follow the guidance of my heavenly Father. Thus far, when I have listened to him, many crises have been averted.

What I am most encouraged about during my tenure as chief is the reduction in the number of homicides in Kansas City. The reduction in the number of homicides committed this year is unparalleled during the past five decades. The credit for the reduction is only in part due to the efforts of the police department. Many organizations, programs and individuals are contributing to making our city safer than it has been for decades. Oftentimes when I respond to homicide scenes, I observe witnesses openly sharing information with detectives. Many are willing to respond to Police Headquarters to provide formal statements.

Even media coverage of violent crimes has diminished. My observations over the past 18 months have revealed less doomsday coverage from some of the local media outlets. During a brief period of my tenure as chief, I and others noticed an increase in negative coverage, even when there had been no increase in violent crimes.  Responsible reporting has, without a doubt, contributed to increasing the feelings of safety in some parts of our community. People tend to want to get involved more when they feel as though the situation is not hopeless.

We should not become complacent, nor should we claim victory. There is no cause to celebrate the still too-high number of senseless acts of violence in our city. We must continue to work together to make the greater metropolitan area one of the safest areas in the country.

What I am currently most concerned about is the police department’s inability to attract and retain qualified minority police officers. The number of minority police officers has increased during my tenure as chief, but not to a level where I am satisfied. Institutional racism exists within many organizations, and law enforcement is not exempt. I have noticed that many who broach the subject of recruiting have done little to contribute to solving the problem, but they often espouse to have the solutions for others to implement. The entire community should be responsible for recruiting police officers who can best serve our community. Weekly, in the national spotlight, we hear of negative race-related issues between the police and other segments of the community. These issues are real!  The community has made it clear that increased minority representation is needed. I implore the entire community to get involved. Ask yourself this question, “How might I contribute to increasing diversity?”  You can share your ideas/concerns at Attorney General Koster’s Roundtable on Tuesday, October 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the theater of the Student Union building on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5100 Cherry Street. Several local chiefs of police also will be meeting on Tuesday, at another location, to discuss minority recruitment and other issues. Rest assured that I will continue to keep this issue on the forefront of my agenda. (And FYI, I prayed before I drafted this paragraph.)

Organizational and cultural changes in the police department have been a continuous process and are necessary to gain and nurture community trust. Problem solving will continue to be viewed as a shared responsibility between the police and other segments of the community.

We will continue to practice fiscal discipline throughout the department to ensure continued financial viability and to increase efficiency, avoid periods of stagnation, continue to reach out to the community en masse through social media and by other means, incorporate emerging technologies in our day-to-day operations and to provide high-quality services in a customer-friendly manner.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the Board of Police Commissioners for allowing me to serve our community.  

Please know that I will continue to do what is in the best interest of the entire community and have no plans to retire any time soon. I am often asked how long will I serve as chief and if I have a contract. I will serve until I accomplish what I have set out to accomplish and no, I do not have a contract. By state statute I must retire at age 65. I am 52 years old, so I have almost 13 years of eligibility.

Thanks again to all who have contributed to making my dreams come true!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Kansas City Regional Crime Lab earns International Accreditation

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab staff are the behind-the-scenes folks on whom the burden of justice often rests. Their work puts perpetrators of violent and property crimes behind bars, thereby protecting our neighborhoods. They recently received an honor confirming what we already knew: they're among the best in the nation. The below is from our monthly Informant newsletter and describes what this honor means for Kansas City: 

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab has proved itself as one of the best in the nation after receiving a new breed of accreditation.

The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) bestowed their International Accreditation for Forensic Science Testing Laboratories on the Kansas City Lab on Sept. 3. A total of 104 city and county crime laboratories have earned the International Accreditation. Kansas City, however, is just one of seven labs nationwide to get accreditation in eight different disciplines, the most of any city or county lab ASCLD/LAB reviewed, according to their web site’s directory.

“For a local department, it’s a very impressive achievement to earn International Accreditation in all those disciplines,” ASCLD/LAB Executive Director John Neuner said.

The eight disciplines in which Kansas City’s lab earned International Accreditation are drug chemistry, toxicology, trace evidence, biology, firearms toolmarks, latent prints, crime scene and digital multimedia evidence.

The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab was previously accredited under ASCLD/LAB’s Legacy Program, but leaders wanted to take it to the next level. Neuner said the new level of accreditation is more stringent, has more requirements and is harder to achieve. It requires forensic laboratories to conform to standards that are in place for labs around the world, not just those agreed upon by American lab directors, as the old system did.

It took two years of work for the Kansas City Lab to earn the International Accreditation, said Lisa Dowler, the Lab’s Quality Assurance Manager. A group of staff members from every discipline met on a weekly basis to ensure the lab met every single standard. She said the process made them better.

“It makes us look at ourselves and look at our processes and how we can continually improve them,” she said.

She said the new standards are very customer-based, and their customers are several people in the judicial process: detectives, prosecutors, courts, attorneys and whoever gets their reports.

The process also had an impact on everyone at the Lab, from the scientists to the Building Operations and Property and Evidence technicians.

“It affected how we communicate with our customers, how we order supplies, how we check our instruments, word our reports, fix issues when they arise, how we set our goals and manage the laboratory,” she said. “So not only was the scientific staff affected, everyone was, from the Building Operations personnel that clean the labs to the administrative assistants and how they order our supplies for us.”

So why did everyone go to so much work for a piece of paper that grants International Accreditation for the next four years?

Ultimately, it’s to fight crime. When the Crime Lab presents evidence that is all but irrefutable, criminals go to prison and victims get justice.

“It’s a symbol for the people of Kansas City and the courts that a quality system exists within your lab, and you’ve demonstrated you’re following internationally recognized standards,” Neuner said. “It gives greater confidence in the quality of work coming out of the laboratory.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime continues to trend downward in Kansas City

The statistics that will be presented to our Board of Police Commissioners tomorrow continue to show a significant decrease in crime compared to last year. These are above and have been certified by the state of Missouri for submission to the FBI (that process takes some time, which is why these numbers are through the end of July).

As of this morning, homicides are down by 31.5 percent compared to last year. In fact, this is the first significant reduction in homicides in the last 50 years. There are many things to which I could credit this, and I don’t claim to know all the reasons, but some of them are increased community cooperation with police, more neighborhoods that are refusing to tolerate crime, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), and the work our officers are doing every day to build trust and fight crime.

Take, for example, the work of our Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit. They are the enforcement arm of KC NoVA. Their job is to go after those who are at the nexus of violent criminal networks. So far this year, they have recovered 119 guns that were possessed illegally. They’ve also made 38 arrests for felons in possession of firearms (which carries a minimum federal prison sentence of five years with no parole) and 16 arrests for other federal firearm violations. They’ve also arrested 322 people wanted on state-level warrants and another 188 who were under investigation for serious (usually violent) crimes.

Crime is down in Kansas City, but it certainly is not eliminated. We continue to rely on the community to assist us. This assistance comes in any number of ways – from mentoring at-risk children to calling the TIPS Hotline. Continued efforts like those will lead to further crime reductions and safer neighborhoods.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflecting on Sept. 11 and the importance of first responder relationships

I’m sure everyone who is reading this can remember where they were and what they were doing 13 years ago today. I was on the fifth floor of Headquarters serving as acting deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau because the regular deputy chief was on vacation that week. I was looking out the window when the first crash happened. There was a TV in my office, and I looked over and saw it.

There is so much to remember and reflect upon today, but one thing that keeps crossing my mind is how vital the relationships between first responders are. Police officers and firefighters were the ones rushing into the Twin Towers that day when everyone else was rushing away from them. They worked together to get thousands of people to safety. Sadly, hundreds of first responders lost their lives in their attempts to save the lives of others.

While Kansas City never has experienced anything near the scope of those attacks (and I pray we never will), our police officers, firefighters and paramedics enter dangerous situations all the time, often side by side. We are blessed to have two groups of professionals who work so well together in Kansas City.

Dozens and dozens of times each day, KCPD and KCFD join up to serve the people of Kansas City – at car wrecks, when someone has been assaulted, medical emergencies, arsons and so many more. A few weeks ago, we conducted joint active shooter training at City Hall. We know that both our departments would be called upon in such an emergency, and we are fortunate that we enjoy such a good relationship and can offer such a quick and professional response. I thank the members of both departments for all they do for the community.

Off the clock, there are many friendships and much camaraderie between members of our agencies. We donate to each other’s charitable causes and have supported each other through difficult budget times. Firefighters have even come to the aid of our officers when they were being assaulted. We have a solid relationship, and we are always ready to work for the good of the people of Kansas City.

Speaking of the public, we need you to continue to assist us. While today reminds me of the importance of first responders, it’s also a reminder that we must remain vigilant. Always be aware of your surroundings, and report any suspicious behavior you may see. The Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Center’s web site offers some tips on what to look for. We appreciate your help in keeping our community safe.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Senate Bill 656 makes fighting violent crime in Kansas City more difficult

This morning I joined Mayor Sly James, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steven Green and others to speak out about the Missouri Legislature's attempt to override the veto of Senate Bill 656. We met in front of the mayor's childhood home at 44th and Montgall. My grandmother lived just around the corner, and she used to walk me to kindergarten down the street. It was a great neighborhood in which to grow up, and we'd like to make it that way again. This morning, Mayor James said SB 656 will only make our jobs harder. I'm proud of the mayor, prosecutor and everyone else for standing up to this bill.

Here are some of my comments from today's press conference:

Reducing violent crime in our city has been my top priority since I became police chief in 2011. This year, we’re beginning to see some real impact from our efforts and the efforts of our partners and the community. Homicides are down by a third compared to where they have been for the past 50 years.

But the fact remains that consistently 80 to 90 percent of murders in this city are perpetrated with guns. Getting those guns out of the hands of people who should not legally possess them is one of our department’s top priorities. Legislation like Senate Bill 656, however, will make our job more difficult.

We need to maintain the freedom to police our city in the way that works best for our residents. Senate Bill 656 would ban any open carry ordinances, which Kansas City enacted at the end of July. An open carry ban works for a densely populated area like our city.

Allowing open carry would increase calls for service to police, which would affect our response time to other emergency calls. Police chiefs and leaders of cities and towns throughout Missouri should be allowed to decide what will most effectively keep their residents safe. Senate Bill 656 does not allow us to do what we believe is in the best interest of Kansas Citians. 

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hot Spot Policing is making a difference

I have written about Hot Spot Policing on this blog before, and I wanted to share with you the impact it has had in the two-plus years we’ve been doing it. At the beginning of this year, we nearly doubled the amount of personnel who work in hot spots, which are the small areas of the city where the most violent crime occurs. Every officer, detective and sergeant on this department not in an under-cover position now works six nights a year in a “hot spot.” Essentially, this means there is an extra squad of officers in East, Central and Metro Patrol divisions during their busiest nights every week. In the first half of this year, hot spot personnel worked 7,216 hours. That’s 7,216 hours of additional police service in a six-month period for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from our existing resources.

In 2012, 50 percent of all the city’s homicides occurred in two of our four hot spots. For years, all four areas disproportionately contributed to the number of murders in our city. As of this writing, two of the four hot spots have had zero homicides this year. That is remarkable, and it speaks to the hard work of our officers, as well as the hard work of the community. Overall, Kansas City is down by 24 homicides compared to this date last year.

In the first half of 2012, Hot Spot officers made an impressive amount of positive contacts with residents. Some played football with children, and others helped the victim of a domestic violence stabbing. Some assisted with juvenile issues on the Country Club Plaza and some arrested a man with a fully loaded handgun on drug possession charges right before he walked into a store. Two homicide detectives arrested a robbery suspect. In February, A sergeant attended one of our weekly intelligence-sharing meetings and learned about a robbery pattern along Main Street. That same day, two officers from our Research and Development Division were working hot spots and responded to a robbery call at Pancho’s at 3540 Main. They learned the suspect had likely gone to the 3700 block of Warwick. They waited outside in the cold and snow for an hour until they saw the suspect come out the back door of an apartment building, and he was apprehended. Further investigation found he was the person responsible for the other Main Street robberies.

I greatly appreciate the work our officers, detectives and sergeants are doing in hot spots, as well as the community response to their work. Let’s keep working together so that there someday may be no crime hot spots at all in Kansas City.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office gets justice for victims and families

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and her staff have brought justice to hundreds of victims and families in Kansas City, and I greatly value their partnership.

The Prosecutor’s office works with our detectives and officers on a daily basis to hold accountable those who commit crimes, especially violent crimes. Jackson County sends more killers to prison than any other county in Missouri. From 2009-2013, nearly 200 defendants went to prison for manslaughter and murder. That is far more than even St. Louis.

And when someone goes to prison for a violent crime in Jackson County, the state’s own sentencing report data shows they go for a longer time than violent offenders in rural and suburban counties.

In addition to ensuring that those who commit crimes receive the appropriate punishments, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office also is partnering with the community and our department to prevent violent crime before it happens. They have been a key component of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). This focused-deterrence program targets those at the epicenters of criminal networks for aggressive police enforcement and prosecution. Meanwhile, it offers services and resources to those on the fringes of criminal networks who want to seek out a new path away from a life of crime. It’s showing promising results: homicides in Kansas City are down by a third from year-to-date totals in the previous five years.

As I’ve said many times, the criminal justice system needs the support of the community to make our community safe. More violent offenders end up in prison when we work together.

I have confidence in Jean Peters Baker and her staff to take on the toughest cases and see that justice is served in our community. 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come see the Police Athletic League under the lights of Arrowhead Stadium

I’ve written about the amazing things our Police Athletic League does for urban-core youth on a number of occasions, and this Thursday, they’re giving some of them an amazing opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The PAL Predators tackle football team will play at halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game at Arrowhead Stadium this Thursday, Aug. 7. The team will be made up of 10- to 12-year old boys, most of whom are playing tackle football for the first time. The PAL team is part of KC United, a sports initiative involving young people from all over the metro area. The goal of KC United is for leaders and mentors throughout the city to use sports to reach young people, part of the same philosophy used at PAL.

The Chiefs’ halftime game was set up by KC United to provide a few of the boys in the program a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand on the field at Arrowhead Stadium. Most of the players in the PAL football program have never been to Arrowhead, so actually playing on the field will be an experience they’ll always remember.

The PAL football program is in its third year of operation. Last year, more than 15 teams played at the PAL Center at 1801 White Ave., and the Center hosted many games. The championship games for four separate age divisions were played under the lights at the PAL field, which was a first for most of the young people in the program. The PAL eighth-grade team last year was undefeated, and the starting quarterback from last year's team is actually starting at quarterback for a local high school team this year as a freshman.

Through generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the PAL field is fully irrigated with a sprinkler system, has stadium lights and is professionally maintained by a local landscaping company. There is a new kitchen/concession area being built at the PAL Center, with most of the new equipment having been donated. The result is the kids are able to play at a very first-rate facility, and teams come in from all over the metro area to play on the PAL field.

Currently, the PAL football program has two tackle football teams, more than a dozen volunteer coaches and approximately 60 players involved. The program has doubled in size from last year, and the quality and caliber of the program is growing each year.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Open carry ordinance is wise

Today, the City Council wisely approved an ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm. My role as Chief of Police is to ensure that residents feel safe and are safe. Allowing people to carry firearms openly within the city not only will cause residents to feel uncomfortable, it also will increase calls for service for someone being armed. Police cannot respond to these calls casually, and this creates a dangerous situation for all.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Homicides down in first half of 2014

Thirty-four people have been murdered in Kansas City so far in 2014. This is about 30 percent less than at the same time in the last five years. But it is still 34 lives lost senselessly, and we are working to lower that number. Today's Kansas City Star article does a very good job discussing some of our efforts to reduce violent crime. I encourage you to read it. But know that we cannot do any of these things without the support and cooperation of the community. The safety of our city depends on you.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Come join us on Nextdoor

Yesterday, we joined with the City Manager’s and Mayor’s offices to officially launch Nextdoor in Kansas City. Nextdoor is a free and private social network for neighborhoods. On Nextdoor, neighbors create private web sites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another, and exchange local advice and recommendations. 

Once I heard about it, I immediately recognized the benefit Nextdoor could have to police and community safety. It can serve as a virtual neighborhood watch.

One of my primary goals as police chief has been for our officers to build positive relationships with the residents they serve. Nextdoor provides us the opportunity to augment those existing relationships online while fostering new ones.

We are training more than 80 patrol officers and sergeants to use and manage this system. They will be responsible for communicating with people in the geographic areas they police. They know the concerns and opportunities in these areas already and are best suited to interact with the residents they serve. The officers will be able to post information pertaining to their whole patrol division or down to their beats.

We don’t intend for Nextdoor to be a replacement for face-to-face contact, but rather a complement to what we’re already doing. We look forward to residents being able to provide us information about safety concerns in their neighborhood and working with them to address those concerns.

Similarly, Nextdoor will serve as a great tool for us in soliciting assistance. As police, we can only do so much. We need the eyes, ears and cooperation of everyone to make this a safer city. A whole neighborhood of people watching for criminal activity or a suspect is usually far more effective at deterring and solving crime than anything our officers or detectives could do.

Nextdoor is another tool in our social media belt. Our police department has had great success with it and in 2013 was named the fourth-most social media friendly police department in the nation.

More than 110 Kansas City neighborhoods already are using Nextdoor, and I invite you to head over to to sign up! (You can also do it on your Android or iPhone through Nextdoor's free app.)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Highlights from my NPR interview

I was pleased to be interviewed on Central Standard this week on our local NPR station, KCUR. Gina Kauffman asked some very thoughtful questions. If you didn't get the chance to listen, you can read more about it and hear the full interview online. Below are some of the highlights from our Q & A:

On whether Kansas City is a safe city to live in

Over 50 percent of our homicides occur in less than a 13 square-mile area of the city. So if you look at the other 300 square miles of Kansas City, it's a relatively safe place to live. Most of our crimes are concentrated in our poor neighborhoods, neighborhoods where educational opportunities are not taken advantage of, places with [high] unemployment. We don't need a computer to tell you where the crime is going to be. We can tell you from some of the socioeconomic conditions and things like that. These are places where we've had problems and we'll continue to have problems.

A lot of times it's lifestyle. You know, we have very few random homicides. Most homicides [involve a] victim and suspect that know each other. Often times, they were close associates at one time. So if you're not involved in a high-risk lifestyle, your chances of becoming a homicide victim in Kansas City are slim.

On if more police officers are needed

Of course we can always use more officers. When we talked about the budget cycle for my first two years, I didn't ask for more police personnel. I wanted to make sure we were using the staff we had efficiently and effectively. Now that we're talking about the budget cycle again, I will ask for more because there's some other things we need to do. To me, you could never have too many [officers]. Like we talked about, the response times to the non-priority calls [need to be addressed].

On response times when crimes are reported

We have to prioritize. When we talk about a priority one call, that's a sexual assault in progress, or an aggravated assault where firearms are being used. There's only so many police officers in Kansas City. I think we have to do a better job of educating the public on these things. If you have a burglary and there's no one there and no immediate danger, it may take up to a few hours before a police officer arrives. I understand the victim wants an immediate response, but I think we need to do a better job of sharing some [other crimes] that are going on in the rest of Kansas City so they don't feel disappointed by those high expectations.

How social media is changing police work

I tweet from @ChiefForte. I try to put as much as I can out there. It helps to dispel some things. For example, you hear [people] talk about the Plaza. There might be two 13-year-old girls fighting on the Plaza, and the media says it's a "Junior Riot" the next day. So I go down there and tweet about the two girls fighting because we don't need that negative image on Kansas City.

On faith driving his energy and enthusiasm

My mom raised me to not worry about a lot of things and just know that there is a God. I pray everyday throughout the day. My grandmother is 91 years old, and I talk to her on a regular basis. She always says, "Baby, just keep praying. I don't care what's happening out there."

I don't miss sleep because I'm worried about anything, I miss sleep because my mind is constantly going. I have my iPad with me all the time so when I wake up, I start taking notes. It's think it's just my energy level, I've always been like that since I was a kid. Now that I'm 52, I need at least five hours of sleep. I don't always get it, but if I get five hours of sleep I can run all day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Remembering those who have fallen

Yesterday was our annual Memorial Service, honoring the 119 Kansas City Police officers who have died in the line of duty. Below is the speech I delivered on this occasion. I was honored to be joined by Officer Randy Evans, who spoke of how his father - also a KCPD officer - was killed in the line of duty when he was 9 years old, and how in spite of this, Randy decided to become a KCPD officer, too.

"Thank you all for coming here today to remember the lives of the 119 officers we have lost in the 140-year history of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. They are represented by the 119 flags you see before you. We also are celebrating the 13 years it has been since our department has suffered a line-of-duty death.

"However, I would be remiss to overlook the tragic death of Crime Scene Investigator Michael Chou last July. His shift had just ended, and when he was pulling out of the Crime Lab’s parking lot, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. My thoughts and prayers – as well as those of his coworkers and the entire police department – remain with his family and friends. He technically was not on duty at the time of his death, but he was a bright and tenacious young man who left his mark at KCPD.

"We may not have had an officer killed in the line of duty since 2001, but their jobs remain very dangerous. Six times last year, our officers had to fatally wound suspects to protect their own lives. Five other officers had injuries so severe they had to end their law enforcement careers last year, and two more have done so this year. These career ending-injuries come from many kinds of dangerous situations, like a gun battle, physical struggles with suspects and car crashes. They all speak to the kind of dangers our officers are willing to face every day to serve the people of their city. They also are the kinds of things that keep our family members awake at night. I thank all the family members of law enforcement personnel here today, and I especially thank those whose worst fears were realized. Words cannot express the gratefulness and sorrow we feel for these family members of officers who lost their lives.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure no other family has to go through what Officer Evans’ family or any of these people sitting here did. Last August, instructors at our police academy began the Below 100 initiative. Below 100 is a national program that aims to bring line-of-duty officer deaths below 100 in a calendar year. The last time fewer than 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in America was 70 years ago in 1944. So far this year, there have been 45 line-of-duty-deaths.

"While innovations in medicine, training and protective equipment have brought deaths down from an all-time high of 278 officers killed in 1974, the current average of 150 per year since then is still far too high.

"Here’s how we’re making sure one of those tragedies does not take place in Kansas City: Every single entrant officer takes the Below 100 training right before graduating from the Police Academy. The course also is offered quarterly to current officers. It is free to our staff and those from any other agency who want to attend. The goal is to save lives, not make money.

"Below 100 centers on five tenets for officers, which address the top causes of line-of-duty deaths in American law enforcement. The tenets are: wear your seatbelt, wear your bullet-resistant vest, watch your speed, consider only what’s important now, and the fact that complacency kills. Everyone who undergoes the training gets one of these bracelets that says “Below 100” to constantly remind them of these things.

"Of the 119 KCPD officers killed in the line of duty, 73 died from gunfire. Another 18 were killed in motorcycle crashes, and 14 died in car crashes. Three were killed in helicopter crashes, and three others were beaten to death. Other officers in our history drowned while trying to rescue flood victims, were killed in a streetcar crash, were hit by a train, had a heart attack during arrest or died in a fall.

"Our Academy instructors, commanders, supervisors and I take the responsibility of properly training and equipping our officers extremely seriously. It is incumbent on us to ensure that every sworn member of our department has the knowledge and resources to go home safely at the end of their shifts. Some tragedies cannot be prevented. But we are working diligently to prevent those we can. I hope that the brave fallen officers who we remember and honor today would be proud of the steps we’ve taken to keep other families from enduring the same loss theirs had to.

Thank you."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bill would harm federal partnerships that reduce violent crime

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Sly James, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Richard Callahan, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, in Jefferson City to speak out against a bill pending in the Missouri Legislature that seeks to nullify federal gun laws. I posted the mayors’ piece on this blog Monday.

I want to make clear that I support the Second Amendment, and I support the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. But parts of this legislation, dubbed “The Second Amendment Preservation Act,” do little to support the rights of lawful gun owners. Instead, it hinders some of the best tools we in municipal law enforecement have – federal partnerships – to reduce violent crime.

This bill would make it against the law for our officers to work with federal agents to enforce gun laws. Below are just some of the federal partnerships and programs in which we engage to fight violent crime, and they all would be in jeopardy if the Missouri General Assembly passes this legislation.

Last year, Kansas City Police worked with our federal partners to get 132 violent criminals off the street with federal felon in possession of firearms cases as part of Project Ceasefire. We also recovered 204 illegal weapons. In the first quarter of this year, we’ve arrested 34 felons in possession of firearms and recovered 66 illegal firearms. The primary elements of Operation Ceasefire are stopping illicit firearms traffickers and harsh federal prison sentences that give gang members and other criminals a strong deterrent to gun violence. House Bill 1439 puts this incredibly successful program and the safety of our residents in jeopardy.

Twenty KCPD detectives are deputized by federal agencies to enforce federal gun laws.

Our Career Criminal Squad alone has two FBI agents, two ATF agents, five U.S. Deputy Marshals, and one Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent. This Squad is one of the best in the nation at tracking down violent criminals, having arrested more than 200 federal fugitives in the last eight years. The majority of those fugitives have committed violent crimes with firearms. Again, House Bill 1439 would likely dismantle this Squad.

Last year, our Gang Squads arrested 21 violent gang members with the assistance of federal partners. They were charged on hundreds of federal counts – many of them weapons charges. So far this year, nine gang members have been arrested and charged with 66 federal counts. If HB 1439 were to pass, we could not continue this kind of enforcement, and gang activity would undoubtedly increase in Kansas City.

A total of 20 federal agents from the ATF, DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals and ICE are directly assigned to KCPD squads and regional task forces that investigate violent crimes and drug trafficking organizations. These cases involve large amounts of weapons offenses.

Our Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, has been a remarkably successful partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services. It’s a focused deterrence program that targets our city’s most violent offenders while offering services to those on the fringes of criminal networks. It has taken murderers off the streets and given assistance ranging from literacy courses to substance abuse treatment to nearly 100 people. But it is built on partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who enforce gun laws.

Working with federal partners to enforce gun laws is one of the most effective tools in our toolbox for preventing violent crime and homicides. I hope we can continue to do so.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Mayor: Bill violates a solemn oath, undermines a sacred freedom

Below is the text of an editorial written by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay discussing a bill that, if approved, could make our cities substantially more dangerous. I'm accompanying Mayor James to Jefferson City today to support him in his effort to stand against House Bill 1439. I ask that you contact your legislator to do the same.

Here is the editorial:

We are the mayors of Missouri’s two largest cities – Kansas City and St. Louis. We represent more than one out of every eight Missourians. Our communities are the centers of metropolitan regions that constitute Missouri’s two greatest economic powerhouses.

We have taken solemn oaths of office. We have pledged to support the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge the duties of our offices.

These duties mainly have to do with keeping our communities safe and well, being good stewards of public resources, working to preserve and create good jobs, rewarding business innovation, meeting the educational needs and creating opportunities for our children, celebrating and promoting our rich cultural, architectural, historical and artistic resources, keeping an eye out for our seniors and extending a helping hand to those in need, welcoming new immigrants, and otherwise working toward just and vibrant and sustainable communities that embrace diversity and welcome and create opportunity for all.
A divided Missouri House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1439. It purports to “preserve” rights to carry and keep firearms. The Missouri and United States constitutions speak to such rights. They are legitimate subjects of legislative attention and public debate. The same holds true for the authority and responsibilities of our federal and state governments. Reasonable people can differ on questions of the limits and scope of the authority of each, and which is best suited to meet what public responsibilities. Americans have been debating these issues since the dawn of our republic.

House Bill 1439 moves well beyond the boundary of reasonable debate. It is an affront to our communities. It is an embarrassment to the State of Missouri.

Simply put, House Bill 1439 represents a reckless attempt by narrow ideological interests to coerce us and other law abiding local officials into violating our oaths of office. The bill, if enacted, would do little to preserve legitimate gun ownership rights. It would do much to undermine the freedom of the people we represent and to threaten the stability of the communities we serve.

We will not be coerced.

House Bill 1439 seeks to intimidate local officials into disregarding settled interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and violating federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, statutes or ordinances.

We will not be intimidated.

House Bill 1439 would make it illegal for our police officers and local prosecutors to work with federal agencies in efforts to reduce gun violence in our cities. State lawmakers would empower street thugs and highway snipers, authorizing them to file lawsuits and recover attorneys’ fees against police and prosecutors who work with federal authorities to keep our communities safe.

We will defend our police and prosecutors and federal partners. We will not cower to political extremists. We will keep our communities safe.

Missouri lawmakers also take an oath of office. They solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. A violation of their oath forever disqualifies them from “holding any office of trust or profit in this state.”

We intend to abide by our oaths. We expect Missouri’s lawmakers to abide by theirs.

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