Thursday, January 30, 2014

Police are moving forward with joining regional detention facility

When I was named Chief of Police in 2011, part of my strategic plan included closing the Headquarters Detention Unit. We now are closer than ever before to improving the environment for our detainees. I am very appreciative of the efforts of those at the City and at the Jackson County Detention Center in helping us reach this much-needed change. We hope to soon better accommodate those who have to be detained. We also will continue to seek opportunities to increase efficiencies as well as improve how we treat others.

Many pieces of the puzzle – everything from information technology to inmate transport issues – have had to come together  to make this consolidation happen, but we are very close to finalizing everything and moving forward with a city-wide detention center at 13th and Locust.

During the recession, we closed the holding facilities at our patrol division stations because of reduced staffing and required all arrests to be booked at Headquarters. We now are going to reopen several of those, and detention officers will be reassigned there. Reopening these station holding cells is more convenient for officers and allows those who have committed lesser offenses to bond out. That frees up space at the main detention facility.

The regional jail will be a better environment for those who are detained. Our jail has been nearly the same since it was built in 1938. It has received no significant upgrades, and space has been extremely tight. Because it has not been upgraded, it never was required to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant. It has been secure and functional, but it does not meet the needs of modern detention facilities. Joining with the City and Jackson County on a regional jail will provide that, as well as ADA compliance. Inmates also will receive services they don’t in our jail. All of them will be screened by a social worker for everything from substance abuse to mental illness problems. The social worker will be able to connect them with services that can assist them and perhaps even remove them from a criminal lifestyle. Inmates also will have 24/7 access to care by a licensed nurse. Because of funding, we only can provide that for 8 to 10 hours a day at our jail.

Joining a regional detention center also will eliminate redundancies in the booking and arraignment processes. Our jail never was intended to house inmates for more than 24 hours, so when inmates don’t make bond, they currently must be transferred to the City/County detention center. This causes them to have to be rebooked all over again at that facility.

I appreciate all the hard work on the part of our staff and that of the City’s and County’s to make this regional detention facility a reality. I also cannot say enough to commend our current Detention Unit staff. They often are short-staffed and do the best they can with an outdated facility. They spend their days dealing with the most belligerent and violent people in Kansas City, and they do it with respect and professionalism. They are about to undergo big changes, and I appreciate their willingness and openness.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crime Free Multi-Housing officers innovating in Shoal Creek Patrol Division

The Crime Free Multi-Housing officers who operate out of each of our six patrol division stations work to make rental properties safe for everyone who lives and stays there. They do so by educating owners and managers on everything from proper lighting to drug identification to crafting leases that ban criminal activity.

But the Crime Free Multi-Housing officers at the Shoal Creek Patrol Division, Adam Hill and Chad Safranek, have taken their duties to the next level. In addition to working with apartment complexes, they also have begun working with hotels, motels and storage units. And Shoal Creek is the only one of our patrol divisions that has its Crime Free officers assigned to the Property Crimes Section. Unlike other Crime Free Multi-Housing officers, they work the cases that occur on multi-family properties – finding suspects, conducting interrogations and submitting case files to prosecutors. This outside-the-box approach is solving many issues within the division.

Their work with local hotels and motels also is unprecedented. The officers say their goal is to keep the criminal element out of these properties and to keep guests safe. Officers Hill and Safranek have been working toward this with gusto. They shut down two pay-by-the-week motels that were riddled with crime, drugs and unsanitary living conditions. They earned the City’s Rich Noll Pacesetter Award for this work. They have conducted multiple warrant sweeps and inspections at these extended stay-type motels, which tend to attract criminal activity.

Thanks to Officers Hill’s and Safranek’s work, two hotels are certified Crime Free properties now, the Holiday Inn Express at 8230 N. Church Rd. and the Comfort Suites at 8200 N. Church Rd. The officers are training their counterparts in other patrol divisions how to expand the Crime Free Multi-Housing concept to hotels and motels.

In 2013, Officers Hill and Safranek generated 279 reports from multi-housing properties, including apartments, hotels and motels. These led to about 60 people being evicted for criminal behavior and the termination of several tenants’ public housing assistance. The evictions result in safer housing for the thousands of law-abiding people who live in these properties.

Officers Hill and Safranek are eager to spread the good the Crime Free Multi-Housing program can do. Kansas City is playing host to the national Crime Free Multi-Housing conference this summer, and the officers will be conducting the hotel/motel portion of that training. I’m proud of the innovation shown by these officers and so many others on our department who are determined to make Kansas City a safer place to live, work and play.

(Click to learn more about our Crime Free Multi-Housingprogram.)

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Hot spot policing undergoes changes

The below article is from the January edition of our monthly newsletter, the Informant:

The department’s hot spot policing initiative got kicked up a notch on Jan. 1, with hundreds more officers now working to stop violence in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Chief Darryl Forté launched hot spot policing in May 2012, pulling officers and sergeants in non-patrol positions onto the streets 20 nights a year. Their goal was to combat violent crime in the areas of the city most plagued with it in the Central, East and Metro patrol divisions. The initiative did an admirable job increasing police presence and deterring crime, but Chief Forté realized some changes were needed.

Approximately 340 officers and sergeants now are in the rotation to work hot spot areas. That’s nearly twice as many as last year. The additional help means more officers in troubled neighborhoods at the most key times – 3 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Officer Tommy Woods, special projects coordinator in the Chief’s Office, said this is increasing positive contacts with residents. It’s also lightened the load for department members trying to juggle hot spot assignments with their regular duties. Each officer and sergeant now only works hot spots six days per year instead of 20. Previously exempt groups like violent and property crimes detectives, traffic investigators and pretty much everyone besides under-cover detectives now are in the mix.

In addition to crime suppression, Chief Forté had another motive for getting as many members patrolling hot spots as possible. In the event of a critical incident, he said he wants every law enforcement member on the department to be able to operate inside a police vehicle and use all the technology therein. This has led to another change: more training for officers who have been out of the field for a while.

Staff in the Police Academy, Chief’s Office and Patrol Bureau have created a new “Street Reboot” course for officers. It familiarizes them with in-car technology like dash-cam video and e-ticketing as well as other department technology like booking and reporting systems.

“The class already is filled to capacity in January and February,” Officer Woods said.

But perhaps the biggest change to the hot spot initiative is the new emphasis on intelligence and providing a clearer direction for what officers should be doing, Woods said. Before, officers were presented with broad goals including reducing homicides and violent crimes, building relationships and visibility.

The Law Enforcement Resource Center now provides current crime information to officers working hot spots at the revamped weekly IRIS (Incident Review and Information Sharing) meetings. The meetings have been moved to Thursday afternoons to provide officers going out on hot spot assignments the next day with up-to-date information about suspects and witnesses who need to be located, warrant information and probation and parole information.

Two officers who attended these meetings, which just started in January, already have used the information presented to track down two wanted suspects. One was wanted for an attempted sexual assault in which he broke through a woman’s apartment window to attack her. The sergeant who found him said he’d heard the man’s description in the IRIS meeting and recognized him when he saw him walking down the street.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Solving and preventing homicides calls for community cooperation

Today’s Kansas City Star features a front-page story about our department’s homicide clearance rate. The raw numbers show that we cleared 55 percent of the city’s 106 homicides in 2013, but the article does a good job of pointing out how nuanced of a number that is. According to federal reporting guidelines, for instance, we have a 69 percent clearance rate because we cleared 15 homicides in 2013 that happened in prior years.

We still have a lot of work to do in clearing homicide cases, but I am proud of the progress we’ve made. In 2010, we cleared just 42 percent of that year’s killings. Three years later, that rate is up to 55 percent. I expect those numbers to continue to climb. The single greatest factor in solving a homicide is community cooperation. As Homicide Sergeant Martin Cobbinah said so well in the Star article, “We rise or fall with their help. When we’re solving a lot of cases, it’s because we’re getting a lot of help from the community.”

I have made improving relations between police and the community one of my top priorities as Chief of Police. It works hand-in-hand with my other top priority: reducing violent crime. While 45 percent of 2013’s homicides are technically not cleared, our detectives know who the suspects are in the majority of them. But witnesses often won’t assist with prosecution. The more we get those witnesses – and the community as a whole – to trust us, the more cases get solved. We can eliminate the desire for vigilante justice that turns murder suspects into victims. When the community understands that police can help bring real justice, the needless tit-for-tat violence that endangers innocent bystanders will decline. We are working to bring that understanding through programs like the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). This program targets our city’s most violent offenders – the ones who insist on perpetuating this cycle of violence – for aggressive prosecution. For those less-violent offenders on the periphery, it offers them a way out through support and social services.

I often hear that police need to do something to prevent our city’s homicides. We are. Through initiatives like KC NoVA, Hot Spot policing, the Area Command Unit, the Lethality Assessment Protocol for domestic violence victims and even the Police Athletic League, we are working to reduce the violence.

But there are some murders we are helpless to stop. In many cases, the suspect and victim know each other, they get angry, and they use a gun to solve their problems. We can’t be there every time that happens. Fights that end people’s lives are over everything from drugs to small amounts of money to a perceived feeling of disrespect. Until a cultural change brings about a greater respect for life and a better way of solving problems and managing anger, many of these killings will continue, regardless of what police do. Again, this is where we need the community’s help. Parents, educators, churches, businesses, the criminal justice system and others must work together to instill these values in upcoming generations. Petty disagreements – even serious arguments – are not worth taking another’s life. There are far more effective ways of resolving problems.

As in so many other things in police work, the community is the key component to solving and preventing homicides. The members of this department and I look forward to helping you create a safer city.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Welcome, Commissioner Kilgore

Gov. Jay Nixon recently appointed Michael Kilgore as the newest member of the Board of Police Commissioners, and he was sworn in at today's Board Meeting. He replaces Lisa Pelofsky, who has dedicatedly served on the Board since 2010.

According to a release from the Governor's office, "Kilgore is an attorney with the firm of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain. From 2006 to 2010, he served as a member of the Missouri Ethics Commission, including serving as its chair from 2008 to 2010. Kilgore previously was an assistant attorney general with the Missouri Attorney General's Office and an assistant prosecuting attorney in Jackson County. He obtained his law degree from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. The Governor has appointed him for a term ending Jan. 6, 2018."

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Police Athletic League is changing lives

I recently attended a Police Athletic League board meeting and was so impressed with what I saw and heard. In case you haven’t heard of it, KCPD’s Police Athletic League (PAL) aims to offer youth the opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive setting while participating in cultural, mentoring and sports programs with the main emphasis placed on academics. PAL is a non-profit organization staffed by Kansas City Police officers. A board of very generous folks from around the area governs the organization.

The impact PAL has had on the lives of urban-core children, many of whom live in poverty, cannot be overstated. Some of these children have gone on to college with academic and athletic scholarships, attaining careers they never would have thought possible at employers like Ford and Sprint. One graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. Another is an NBA player. I have been so touched and impressed with the difference PAL is making that I've ordered all of our command staff to spend some time at PAL by the end of March to understand the impact it's having on our community.

Below are just a few of PAL’s recent success stories, as shared by Youth Services commander Captain James Thomas:

* One of our seventh/eighth-grade tackle football players passed out during practice. The young man, who is in pretty good shape, was really struggling. The coaches/officers offered first aid, and the young player fortunately suffered no permanent health issues. But in talking with the player, the officers discovered he had not eaten for a couple of days. The officers then met with the single mother and discovered there was little food in the household. Despite working two jobs, she had severe financial struggles, and the kids were often responsible for preparing their own meals while she was at work. The officers immediately developed a plan, reaching out to corporate PAL partners to create an emergency food drive, while contacting city services to link the family with financial assistance. The officers did this in a low-key manner so as not to embarrass the family. The young player had been ashamed of his background and refused to share his struggles with anyone else, even when it made him sick. But because of the relationship he had with the officers of the PAL Center, he finally opened up, and his whole family was able to receive much-needed assistance.

* A PAL officer met a 10-year-old boy at his school while recruiting for our flag football team. He was going down the wrong path, getting in trouble at school and getting bad grades. The boy agreed to play for the team, but his mother disapproved because she didn’t like police. The PAL officer explained the benefits of the PAL program and although skeptical, the mother agreed to let her son participate. In addition to football, he enrolled in the PAL Upper Room reading program. The Officer took on a father/parent figure role and mentored the child, as many of the officers do with all our kids. The young man became an A/B student and has formed a strong bond with the officer. Not only has the young man gained an adult mentor, his mother now has a positive attitude about the police.

 * A young girl came to PAL as a broken 9-year-old. We had no idea of her struggles, but through a relationship with an officer/coach, it was discovered she had low self-esteem and lacked confidence. She was very isolated and had been accosted by an adult family member. The officer asked if she would be interested in boxing. Although reluctant at first, she decided to give it a try. Today, she is a thriving young person full of confidence and a peer leader at PAL. She has found success in school and in the boxing ring. She is a permanent fixture at PAL and is a shadow of the person who first came to us. She mentors, referees games, and assists younger children with homework and reading.

* Two of our PAL kids were involved in a drive-by shooting at their house. The shooting arose out of a dispute over a girl, and a 2-year-old in the home was shot. The toddler was in the hospital for about a week. Although both parents worked, the family had limited income. PAL officers and Board members donated time and money for meals to ensure the family received essential needs. The 2-year-old returned home, and the family celebrated with a donated Thanksgiving Day feast. The officer who was working with the family made a home visit and found that the family did not have enough beds for all family members legs and lived out of a mini refrigerator. A collection was taken among officers and friends of officers to purchase the family two sets of bunk beds and a full-size refrigerator.

* Last month, officers learned a PAL youth was living in a household with no electricity or heat. The family was cooking dinner on a barbecue grill. Board members learned of the situation and procured a stove, water heater and worked with utility companies to get utilities restored to the house. This included a mini makeover of the house to improve insulation and rewiring the house to make it safe.

If you'd like for your child to be involved in the Police Athletic League, call Sergeant Brad Deichler at 816-413-3621.

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